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SIGN 136 • Management of chronic pain
A national clinical guideline
December 2013
Evidence
KEY TO EVIDENCE STATEMENTS AND GRADES OF RECOMMENDATIONS
LEVELS OF EVIDENCE
1++
High quality meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs, or RCTs with a very low risk of bias
1+
Well conducted meta-analyses, systematic reviews, or RCTs with a low risk of bias
1-
Meta-analyses, systematic reviews, or RCTs with a high risk of bias
High quality systematic reviews of case control or cohort studies
2++
High
quality case control or cohort studies with a very low risk of confounding or bias and a high probability that the
relationship is causal
2+
Well conducted case control or cohort studies with a low risk of confounding or bias and a moderate probability that the
relationship is causal
2-
Case control or cohort studies with a high risk of confounding or bias and a significant risk that the relationship is not causal
3
Non-analytic studies, eg case reports, case series
4
Expert opinion
GRADES OF RECOMMENDATION
Note: The grade of recommendation relates to the strength of the evidence on which the recommendation is based. It does not reflect the
clinical importance of the recommendation.
A
B
t least one meta-analysis, systematic review, or RCT rated as 1++,
A
and directly applicable to the target population; or
body of evidence consisting principally of studies rated as 1+,
A
directly applicable to the target population, and demonstrating overall consistency of results
A body of evidence including studies rated as 2++,
d
irectly applicable to the target population, and demonstrating overall consistency of results; or
Extrapolated evidence from studies rated as 1++ or 1+
C
A body of evidence including studies rated as 2+,
directly applicable to the target population and demonstrating overall consistency of results; or
Extrapolated evidence from studies rated as 2++
D
Evidence level 3 or 4; or
Extrapolated evidence from studies rated as 2+
GOOD PRACTICE POINTS

Recommended best practice based on the clinical experience of the guideline development group
NHS Evidence has accredited the process used by Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines
Network to produce guidelines. Accreditation is applicable to guidance produced
using the processes described in SIGN 50: a guideline developer’s handbook, 2008
edition (www.sign.ac.uk/guidelines/fulltext/50/index.html). More information on
accreditation can be viewed at www.evidence.nhs.uk
Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) is committed to equality and diversity and assesses all its publications for likely impact on the
six equality groups defined by age, disability, gender, race, religion/belief and sexual orientation.
SIGN guidelines are produced using a standard methodology that has been equality impact assessed to ensure that these equality
aims are addressed in every guideline. This methodology is set out in the current version of SIGN 50, our guideline manual, which can
be found at www.sign.ac.uk/guidelines/fulltext/50/index.html. The EQIA assessment of the manual can be seen at
www.sign.ac.uk/pdf/sign50eqia.pdf. The full report in paper form and/or alternative format is available on request from the
Healthcare Improvement Scotland Equality and Diversity Officer.
Every care is taken to ensure that this publication is correct in every detail at the time of publication. However, in the event of errors
or omissions corrections will be published in the web version of this document, which is the definitive version at all times. This version
can be found on our web site www.sign.ac.uk.
This document is produced from elemental chlorine-free material and is sourced from sustainable forests.
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network
Management of chronic pain
A national clinical guideline
December 2013
Management of chronic pain
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network
Gyle Square, 1 South Gyle Crescent
Edinburgh EH12 9EB
www.sign.ac.uk
First published December 2013
ISBN 978 1 909103 17 7
Citation text
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).
Management of chronic pain. Edinburgh: SIGN; 2013.
(SIGN publication no. 136). [December 2013]. Available from URL: http://www.sign.ac.uk
SIGN consents to the photocopying of this guideline for the purpose
of implementation in NHSScotland.
Contents
Contents
1Introduction.......................................................................................................................................................................1
1.1
The need for a guideline....................................................................................................................................................................... 1
1.2
Remit of the guideline........................................................................................................................................................................... 1
1.3Definitions.................................................................................................................................................................................................. 2
1.4
Reporting in pain trials.......................................................................................................................................................................... 2
1.5
Statement of intent................................................................................................................................................................................. 3
2
Key recommendations.....................................................................................................................................................5
2.1
Assessment and planning of care...................................................................................................................................................... 5
2.2 Supported self management.............................................................................................................................................................. 5
2.3
Pharmacological management.......................................................................................................................................................... 5
2.4
Psychologically based interventions................................................................................................................................................ 5
2.5
Physical therapies.................................................................................................................................................................................... 5
3
Assessment and planning of care..................................................................................................................................6
3.1
Assessment tools..................................................................................................................................................................................... 6
3.2
Timing of intervention........................................................................................................................................................................... 6
3.3
Care management................................................................................................................................................................................... 7
3.4
Patient-professional interaction......................................................................................................................................................... 7
4
Supported self management.........................................................................................................................................8
5
Pharmacological therapies.............................................................................................................................................9
5.1Introduction............................................................................................................................................................................................... 9
5.2
Non-opioid analgesics (simple and topical)................................................................................................................................... 10
5.3Opioids........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 12
5.4
Anti-epilepsy drugs................................................................................................................................................................................. 15
5.5Antidepressants........................................................................................................................................................................................ 17
5.6
Combination therapies.......................................................................................................................................................................... 19
6
Psychologically based interventions............................................................................................................................20
6.1
Multidisciplinary pain management programmes...................................................................................................................... 20
6.2
Unidisciplinary education..................................................................................................................................................................... 21
6.3
Behavioural therapies............................................................................................................................................................................ 22
6.4
Cognitive behavioural therapy........................................................................................................................................................... 23
6.5
Mindfulness meditation and acceptance and commitment therapy................................................................................... 24
7
Physical therapies.............................................................................................................................................................25
7.1
Manual therapy........................................................................................................................................................................................ 25
7.2Exercise........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 26
7.3Traction........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 28
7.4Electrotherapy........................................................................................................................................................................................... 28
8
Complementary therapies..............................................................................................................................................29
8.1Acupuncture.............................................................................................................................................................................................. 29
8.2
Herbal medicine....................................................................................................................................................................................... 29
Management
pain
Managementofofchronic
chronic
pain
8.3
Other therapies......................................................................................................................................................................................... 30
9
Dietary therapies..............................................................................................................................................................31
10
Provision of information.................................................................................................................................................32
10.1
Sources of further information........................................................................................................................................................... 32
10.2
Checklist for provision of information.............................................................................................................................................. 34
11
Implementing the guideline...........................................................................................................................................35
11.1
Implementation strategy...................................................................................................................................................................... 35
11.2
Resource implications of key recommendations......................................................................................................................... 35
11.3
Auditing current practice...................................................................................................................................................................... 35
11.4
Additional advice to NHSScotland from Healthcare Improvement Scotland and
the Scottish Medicines Consortium................................................................................................................................................. 36
12
The evidence base............................................................................................................................................................37
12.1
Systematic literature review................................................................................................................................................................. 37
12.2
Recommendations for research......................................................................................................................................................... 37
12.3
Review and updating............................................................................................................................................................................. 38
13
Development of the guideline.......................................................................................................................................39
13.1Introduction............................................................................................................................................................................................... 39
13.2
The guideline development group................................................................................................................................................... 39
13.3
Consultation and peer review............................................................................................................................................................. 40
Abbreviations.................................................................................................................................................................................42
Annex 1............................................................................................................................................................................................44
Annex 2............................................................................................................................................................................................48
Annex 3 ...........................................................................................................................................................................................52
Annex 4............................................................................................................................................................................................54
Annex 5............................................................................................................................................................................................58
References......................................................................................................................................................................................59
1 • Introduction
1Introduction
1.1the need for a guideline
Chronic pain is a major clinical challenge: across Europe approximately 18% of the population are currently
affected by moderate to severe chronic pain.1 It has a considerable impact on quality of life, resulting in
significant suffering and disability.2-4 While in many cases it is accepted that a cure is unlikely, the impact on
quality of life, mood and function can be significantly reduced by appropriate measures. Chronic pain not only
has an impact on affected individuals and their families, it also has substantial economic costs. For example,
back pain alone was estimated to cost £12 billion per annum in the UK in 1998, and arthritis-associated pain
costs around 2.5% of the gross national product of Western nations.5,6
While a proportion of patients will require access to specialist secondary and tertiary care pain services, the
majority of patients will be managed in the community or primary care. It is vital that general practitioners
(GPs) and other healthcare professionals have the best possible resource and support to manage their patients
properly and have facilities for accessing appropriate specialist services when required. Within Scotland there is
evidence of wide variation in clinical practice service and resource provision, with a general lack of knowledge
about chronic pain and the management options that are available.7
A wide range of both pharmacological and non-pharmacological management strategies are available for
chronic pain. The challenge is to understand the extensive published evidence for different treatments and
to determine when and where to use them for the best long term outcomes for the patient. It is hoped that
this evidence based guideline will provide the information needed to improve clinical outcomes and quality
of life for patients with chronic pain.
1.2
REMIT of the guideline
1.2.1overall objectives
This guideline provides recommendations based on current evidence for best practice in the assessment
and management of adults with chronic non-malignant pain in non-specialist settings.
It does not cover:
yy interventions which are only delivered in secondary care.
yy treatment of patients with headache (see SIGN 107, Diagnosis and management of headache in adults).8
yy children. While chronic pain occurs in children, some of their treatment options are different to those of
adults, and evidence on the paediatric population has not been included in this remit.
yy underlying conditions. Chronic pain is caused by many underlying conditions. The treatment of these
conditions is not the focus of this guideline so the search strategies were restricted to the treatment of
chronic pain, not specific conditions.
Details of the literature review are covered in section 12 and the key questions used to develop the guideline
can be found in Annex 1. SIGN guidelines on other relevant topics are available on the SIGN website,
www.sign.ac.uk.8-12
1.2.2target users of the guideline
This guideline will be of particular interest to all healthcare professionals involved in the assessment and
management of patients with chronic pain, including general practitioners, pharmacists, anaesthetists,
psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, rheumatologists, occupational therapists, nurses, patients,
carers and voluntary organisations with an interest in chronic pain.
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Management of chronic pain
1.3definitions
In this guideline chronic pain is defined as pain that has been present for more than 12 weeks.
The non-specialist setting is any setting where the training and infrastructure is not specifically designed
for treating chronic pain. This might include management in the community, primary care or secondary
care.
1.4reporting in pain trials
Difficulties in reporting make the interpretation of the evidence base challenging. Pain is defined by the
International Association for the Study of Pain as “an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated
with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”.13 Chronic pain is a complex
phenomenon with consequent challenges for its assessment and management both in clinical trials and
routine clinical practice. This is further complicated by the fact that even in the same condition there may
be quite different pain mechanisms among patients. While changes in the peripheral pain processing might
predominate in one patient, central changes may be much more important in the next patient.14-16 While a
particular treatment may work very effectively in one patient, it may not work at all in another patient with
the same condition. In clinical trials, unless there is careful assessment of the chronic pain syndrome in each
patient, potentially useful treatments may be discarded as being ineffective when the average response
is considered. Even good quality, adequately powered double blind randomised controlled trials may not
provide the best approach for developing a strong evidence base for pain management.17-19
These limitations have been recognised internationally, leading to the development of the Initiative on
Methods, Measurement and Pain Assessment in Clinical Trials (IMMPACT, www.immpact.org) in 2002.
A number of factors need to be considered in order to optimise the design of trials studying chronic pain.
These include patient selection (pain diagnosis, duration, intensity) and sample size, different phases within
the trial (eg enriched enrolment) and duration of study, treatment groups (including active versus inactive
placebo comparator), dosing strategies (fixed versus flexible) and type of trial (eg parallel, crossover).17,20,21
To allow comparison between studies a standardised approach to outcome measures, is recommended by
IMMPACT.17 Four key domains are recommended to adequately assess outcomes:
1. Pain intensity. A numerical rating scale 0-10 is recommended as the most practical and sensitive.
2. Physical functioning. Assessment with validated self report questionnaires such as the Multidimensional
Pain Inventory or Brief Pain Inventory interference scales is recommended.
3. Emotional functioning. The Beck Depression Inventory and the Profile of Mood States are recommended.
4. Patient rating of overall improvement. The Patient Global Impression of Change scale can be used.
Side effects and detailed information about patient recruitment and progress through the trial should also
be recorded.22,23
While much of the literature published to date does provide a sound evidence base for this guideline, it is
hoped that future studies will follow the IMMPACT recommendations.
In addition to the limitations of assessment and trial design, concerns have been raised about how analysis
methods may either obscure clinically important positive outcomes, or overestimate treatment effects. If
the average response is considered, a treatment may appear ineffective, whereas it could have the potential
to be effective in a particular subgroup of the patients being studied. It may, therefore, be useful to analyse
responders to a particular treatment separately from non-responders.19
Another important factor is how patients who drop out before completing the study are dealt with in
the analysis. Using the last-observation-carried-forward (LOCF) for patients who drop out is based on the
assumption that in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) drop-outs will occur randomly between the treatment
groups. The active treatment may be an effective analgesic but if it has an unpleasant side effect profile then
drop-outs are likely to be higher in a non-random manner in this treatment group. Pain scores prior to dropout may therefore demonstrate efficacy, but in clinical practice this treatment is unlikely to be tolerated.
2|
1 • Introduction
The majority of RCTs use the imputation method of LOCF, and may therefore potentially overestimate the
treatment effect.24
While there are a number of good quality systematic reviews and meta-analyses that provide an evidence base
for the management of patients with chronic pain, there are some limitations with the currently published
literature. This has been taken into consideration by the guideline development group when appraising
the evidence and, where there are areas of potential doubt, recommendations have been downgraded
accordingly. Further details of the literature review can be found in section 12.
1.5
Statement of intent
This guideline is not intended to be construed or to serve as a standard of care. Standards of care are
determined on the basis of all clinical data available for an individual case and are subject to change
as scientific knowledge and technology advance and patterns of care evolve. Adherence to guideline
recommendations will not ensure a successful outcome in every case, nor should they be construed as
including all proper methods of care or excluding other acceptable methods of care aimed at the same
results. The ultimate judgement must be made by the appropriate healthcare professional(s) responsible
for clinical decisions regarding a particular clinical procedure or treatment plan. This judgement should only
be arrived at following discussion of the options with the patient, covering the diagnostic and treatment
choices available. It is advised, however, that significant departures from the national guideline or any local
guidelines derived from it should be fully documented in the patient’s case notes at the time the relevant
decision is taken.
1.5.1
Patient version
A patient version of this guideline is available from the SIGN website, www.sign.ac.uk
1.5.2
prescribing oF licensed medicines outwith their marketing authorisation
Recommendations within this guideline are based on the best clinical evidence. Some recommendations
may be for medicines prescribed outwith the marketing authorisation (MA) also known as product licence.
This is known as ‘off label’ use.
Medicines may be prescribed off label in the following circumstances:
yy
yy
yy
yy
for an indication not specified within the marketing authorisation
for administration via a different route
for administration of a different dose
for a different patient population.
An unlicensed medicine is a medicine which does not have MA for medicinal use in humans.
Generally the off label use of medicines becomes necessary if the clinical need cannot be met by licensed
medicines within the marketing authorisation. Such use should be supported by appropriate evidence and
experience.25
“Prescribing medicines outside the conditions of their marketing authorisation alters (and probably increases)
the prescribers’ professional responsibility and potential liability”.25
The General Medical Council (GMC) recommends that when prescribing a medicine off label, doctors should:
yy b
e satisfied that such use would better serve the patient’s needs than an authorised alternative (if one
exists).
yy be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence/experience of using the medicines to show its safety and
efficacy, seeking the necessary information from appropriate sources.
yy record in the patient’s clinical notes the medicine prescribed and, when not following common practice,
the reasons for the choice.
yy take responsibility for prescribing the medicine and for overseeing the patient’s care, including monitoring
the effects of the medicine.
|3
Management of chronic pain
Non-medical prescribers should ensure that they are familiar with the legislative framework and their own
professional prescribing standards.
Prior to any prescribing, the licensing status of a medication should be checked in the summary of product
characteristics (SPC).26 The prescriber must be competent, operate within the professional code of ethics of
their statutory bodies and the prescribing practices of their employers.27
1.5.3
additional advice to nhsscotland from HEALTHCARE improvement scotland and the
scottish medicines consortium
Healthcare Improvement Scotland processes multiple technology appraisals (MTAs) for NHSScotland that
have been produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England and Wales.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) provides advice to NHS Boards and their Area Drug and Therapeutics
Committees about the status of all newly licensed medicines and any major new indications for established
products.
SMC advice relevant to this guideline is summarised in section 11.4.
4|
2 • Key recommendations
2
Key recommendations
The following recommendations were highlighted by the guideline development group as the key clinical
recommendations that should be prioritised for implementation. The grade of recommendation relates to the
strength of the supporting evidence on which the recommendation is based. It does not reflect the clinical
importance of the recommendation.
2.1assessment and planning of care
concise history, examination and biopsychosocial assessment, identifying pain type (neuropathic/
A
nociceptive/mixed), severity, functional impact and context should be conducted in all patients with
chronic pain. This will inform the selection of treatment options most likely to be effective.
2.2 supported self management
ealthcare professionals should signpost patients to self help resources, identified and recommended
H
by local pain services, as a useful aide at any point throughout the patient journey. Self management
may be used from an early stage of a pain condition through to use as part of a long term management
strategy.
2.3pharmacological management
atients using analgesics to manage chronic pain should be reviewed at least annually, and more
P
frequently if medication is being changed, or the pain syndrome and/or underlying comorbidities alter.
B
Strong opioids should be considered as an option for pain relief for patients with chronic low
back pain or osteoarthritis, and only continued if there is ongoing pain relief. Regular review is
required.
D
Specialist referral or advice should be considered if there are concerns about rapid-dose escalation
with continued unacceptable pain relief, or if >180 mg/day morphine equivalent dose is required.
2.4psychologically based interventions
C
Referral to a pain management programme should be considered for patients with chronic pain.
linicians should be aware of the possibility that their own behaviour, and the clinical environment,
C
can impact on reinforcement of unhelpful responses.
2.5physical therapies
B
Exercise and exercise therapies, regardless of their form, are recommended in the management
of patients with chronic pain.
A
Advice to stay active should be given in addition to exercise therapy for patients with chronic low
back pain to improve disability in the long term. Advice alone is insufficient.
|5
Management of chronic pain
3
Assessment and planning of care
3.1
Assessment tools
There is consensus that it is good practice to assess severity, impact and type of pain before the initiation of
treatment, to guide management and gauge its success.28,29 No evidence was identified that the use of any 4
assessments had any effect on clinically relevant outcomes.
Brief and well validated tools are available for the assessment of pain in non-specialist settings. These include
tools to measure severity of pain and/or its functional impact, tools to identify neuropathic pain, and tools
to predict risk of chronicity in acute pain presentations.
One RCT of the STartBack tool stratified patients with back pain into low, medium and high risk of poor
prognosis, to inform and evaluate treatment outcomes.30 Those at medium risk were referred for physiotherapy
and those at high risk were referred for psychologically augmented physiotherapy. Sixty per cent of patients
in the intervention group and 58% in the control group had chronic pain. Outcome was measured using 1++
the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) scores, range 0 (no disability) to 24 (severe disability).
At four months the intervention group reported an adjusted mean change of RMDQ score of 4.7 (standard
deviation (SD) 5.9) compared to the control group (3·0 (SD 5·9)) with a between-group difference of 1.81
(95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06 to 2.57). Scores at 12 months were 4.3 (SD 6.4) versus 3.3 (SD 6.2), betweengroup difference 1.06 (95% CI 0.25 to 1.86).30
concise history, examination and biopsychosocial assessment, identifying pain type (neuropathic/
A
nociceptive/mixed), severity, functional impact and context should be conducted in all patients with
chronic pain. This will inform the selection of treatment options most likely to be effective.
A pathway for assessment can be found in Annex 2.
3.2timing of intervention
The specialist resource available for managing chronic pain is limited and long waits between the onset of
pain, diagnosis of chronic pain, referral and seeing a specialist are common.
eferral should be considered when non-specialist management is failing, chronic pain is poorly
R
controlled, there is significant distress, and/or where specific specialist intervention or assessment is
considered.
A systematic review of observational studies concluded that longer delays between specialist referral and
specialist consultation result in poorer health and pain management by the time of this consultation. This 2++
deterioration starts as early as five weeks from referral and there is consensus that a delay of longer than six
months is medically unacceptable.31
No RCT evidence was found that early or late initiation of specific treatments or early or late specialist referral
influences outcome in patients with chronic pain.
6|
3 • Assessment and planning of care
3.3care management
Care management encompasses the assessment of a patient’s needs, development of an individualised care
plan, management of access to other services, and the monitoring and re-assessment of those needs.32 Care
management strategies are used in primary care for many chronic diseases and are intended to improve the
quality of care and the use of resources.
A randomised controlled trial studied a collaborative care programme which included clinician education,
patient assessment, education, goal setting and two-monthly telephone follow up by a primary care based pain
team (who had minimal previous pain management experience), and communication of recommendations to 1++
GPs. This intervention led to statistically significant but modest reductions in the primary outcomes of mean
pain-related disability, pain and depression scores. The number of patients with a 30% reduction in pain-related
disability was clinically and statistically superior in the intervention group (21.9% versus 14% in the control
group; p=0.04). This was a secondary outcome, however, and the results were not well reported.33
Another RCT studied an implementation strategy to promote a national guideline for management of back pain,
with or without motivational counselling from practice nurses. This study showed improvements in outcomes 1+
but these were small, inconsistent and of unconvincing clinical significance.34
A review of nurse-led care identified only two RCTs in primary care which were of insufficient quality to support
1any recommendations.35
Another review found that evidence for the use of computerised clinical decision support systems was too
2weak to draw any conclusions.36
Many studies demonstrated that other care management approaches are feasible but with significant resource
implications, and no evidence of clinically significant improvement in outcomes.
3.4patient-professional interaction
Studies suggest that, for patients with chronic pain, person-centred approaches, involvement in decision
making, and concordance with professionals generally enhance the consultation experience. There is no high
quality evidence directly linking the nature of the interaction between healthcare professionals and patients to
outcomes in chronic pain management. Specific training of professionals in adopting these approaches might
improve outcomes such as patient satisfaction with the interaction, reduction in anxiety and reduction in pain
levels.37-42 Further evidence that this effort and investment leads to long term improved health outcomes is
required before their widespread adoption.43
A compassionate, patient-centred approach to assessment and management of chronic pain is likely
to optimise the therapeutic environment and improve the chances of successful outcome.
|7
3
12+
1+
2++
Management of chronic pain
4
Supported self management
Self management programmes are safe, low technology, community based and affordable interventions to
help patients better manage their condition.44 Patient or lay self help or self management therapies are distinct
from simple patient education or skills training. They are structured programmes which aim to allow people +
1
to take an active part in the management of their own chronic condition.45 These programmes are primarily
educational, addressing self management and delivered by lay people. The form of delivery can be in groups
or as individuals, face-to-face, by post, or electronically. The essential component is that it involves interaction
between a participant and a tutor.
Participation in a self management programme was found to reduce pain (standardised mean difference (SMD)
+
-0.14, 95% CI -0.23 to -0.04) and disability (-0.17, 95% CI -0.27 to -0.07) in patients with arthritis for up to twelve 1
months. Insufficient evidence was found to determine the effectiveness in patients with chronic low back pain.44
The use of internet based self help materials can be a beneficial adjunct to clinical care for short term pain
+
relief, reduction in perceived disability, and improvement in stress, coping and social support.46-49 Outcomes 1
for these studies varied, but overall improvements were small.
Studies on lay-led self management education programmes for patients with a variety of long term conditions
have shown a small short term improvement in participants’ confidence to manage their own health
+
(SMD -0.3, 95% CI -0.41 to -0.19), adoption of aerobic exercises ( SMD -0.2, 95% CI -0.27 to -0.12) and well-being 1
(SMD -0.2, 95% CI -0.3 to-0.1). No evidence was found on the impact of the programmes on psychological
health, symptoms or health-related quality of life.45
Patients require advice and specific instructions on appropriate exercise(s) and/or restoration of functional +
1
activities to promote active self management. Simple advice is not sufficient.50
C
Self management resources should be considered to complement other therapies in the treatment
of patients with chronic pain.
ealthcare professionals should signpost patients to self help resources, identified and recommended
H
by local pain services, as a useful aide at any point throughout the patient journey. Self management
may be used from an early stage of a pain condition through to use as part of a long term management
strategy.
Sources of further information for patients can be found in Section 10.
8|
5 • Pharmacological therapies
5
Pharmacological therapies
5.1introduction
A wide range of analgesics have been used in the treatment of chronic pain. This section addresses their
individual use, but there are a number of more general aspects that should also be considered.
Although it was developed and validated only for the treatment of cancer pain, the World Health Organization
analgesic ladder is widely used to guide basic treatment of acute and chronic pain.51, 52 There is little good
quality evidence for its use in chronic pain, but it does provide an analgesic strategy for non-specialists. Careful
assessment and diagnosis is key to initiating appropriate pharmacotherapy. Continuing success requires
regular, scheduled re-assessment of pain relief and side effects. (See Annex 2 for pathways on assessment
and managing care).
Figure 1: World Health Organization analgesic ladder53
Reproduced with permission from the World Health Organization
There is considerable variation in patient responses to analgesia, both in terms of efficacy and side effects.19
Even with the same chronic pain syndrome the underlying neurobiology will differ between individuals,
influencing analgesic response.16,54 There is also increasing evidence that variations in drug responses are
linked to genetic factors (eg opioids).55 Thus if a patient either fails to tolerate or has inadequate analgesia
from a drug, then it is worthwhile considering a different agent from the same class of drug.
It is useful to have an indication of when to stop a medication, particularly for anti-neuropathic agents where
there is a period of dose titration to response. If there has been no response to treatment within two-tofour weeks, after titration to adequate dose, patients are unlikely to develop a response thereafter. Integral
to success is regular re-assessment of the patient and stopping medication that is not working effectively.
There is a scientific basis for the use of polypharmacy due to the complex nature of pain neurobiology,
and evidence from acute pain where a combination of analgesics is used to improve postoperative pain
control.56 A Cochrane review of the use of combination therapies in patients with neuropathic pain found
good evidence for improved efficacy from two-drug combinations, but drop-out rates tended to be higher
because of increased adverse effects (see section 5.6).57
|9
Management of chronic pain
Regardless of which analgesia is used, regular review and reassessment to determine that there is continued
value from using a particular medication is important in providing ongoing good quality chronic pain
management.
atients using analgesics to manage chronic pain should be reviewed at least annually, and more
P
frequently if medication is being changed, or the pain syndrome and/or underlying comorbidities alter.
Prescribing advice to NHSScotland from the Scottish Medicines Consortium can be found in Section 11.4.
5.2non-opioid analgesics (simple and topical)
5.2.1non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Regular treatment with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) has a modest beneficial effect in
patients with non-specific low back pain compared with placebo, with an overall improvement of about 10%. 1++
No difference has been observed between different NSAIDs or between non-selective and cyclo-oxygenase
(COX)-2 selective NSAIDs.58
A systematic review of six studies that compared various NSAIDs with paracetamol in low back pain found
a trend in favour of NSAID (pooled SMD -0.21, 95% CI -0.43 to 0.02) but this was not significant.58 One high 1++
quality RCT within the review found NSAIDs to be superior to paracetamol. Adverse effects were more
common with NSAIDs than paracetamol (RR 1.76, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.76).
NSAID treatment is associated with a higher risk of adverse effects compared with placebo (relative risk
(RR) 1.24, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.43).58 Side effects were varied and included abdominal pain, diarrhoea, oedema, 1++
dry mouth, rash, dizziness, headache, and tiredness.58-60 COX-2 selective NSAIDs had fewer side effects than
traditional NSAIDs (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.99).58
Gastrointestinal (GI) adverse effects are well established risks of long term regular NSAID treatment. This has
been compounded by emerging evidence showing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and
heart failure. The risk of serious upper GI events differs significantly between NSAIDs.61 The greatest risk of 2+
upper GI bleeding/perforation is seen with non-selective NSAIDs; those with a long half-life and slow-release
preparations. The highest risk is with piroxicam (RR 9.94, 95% CI 5.99 to16.50) followed by naproxen (RR 5.57,
95% CI 3.94 to 7.87) whereas COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib (RR 1.42, 95% CI 0.85 to 2.3) are associated
with the lowest risk.61
Meta-analyses of RCTs have shown that long term regular use of ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and
etorocoxib are all associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease death 1++
whereas this has not been observed with naproxen. In the same meta-analysis, all NSAIDs were associated
with an increased risk of heart failure, but there was no evidence of an increased risk of stroke.62
B
NSAIDs should be considered in the treatment of patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.
B
Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risk needs to be taken into account when prescribing any
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Further recommendations on the use of NSAIDs for specific conditions are available in guidelines focusing
on rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout.9, 63-66
10 |
5 • Pharmacological therapies
5.2.2paracetamol
There is insufficient evidence to determine the efficacy of paracetamol in the treatment of patients with
++
generalised chronic low back pain.59,67 Paracetamol showed slightly inferior pain relief to NSAIDs in patients 1
with osteoporosis and chronic low back pain (SMD 0.3).59
Paracetamol (1,000 to 4,000 mg/day) showed a small benefit over placebo in treatment of patients with knee
and hip osteoarthritis (OA) pain and could be considered in addition to non-pharmacological treatments.68 ++
1
One study showed high dose paracetamol (3,900 mg/day) to be more effective than placebo for pain relief 4
and improved function in patients with OA of the knee.68 NICE advise that paracetamol may be a suitable
adjunct to other treatments such as education or exercise.64
A combination of paracetamol 1,000 mg and ibuprofen 400 mg was significantly superior to regular
1+
paracetamol 1,000 mg alone for knee pain at 13 weeks but with an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.69
C
Paracetamol (1,000-4,000 mg/day) should be considered alone or in combination with NSAIDs in the
management of pain in patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis in addition to non-pharmacological
treatments.
5.2.3nefopam
The evidence identified on the use of nefopam for chronic pain relief is not sufficient to support a ++
1
recommendation.70
5.2.4topical NSAIDs
Topical NSAIDs were significantly more effective than placebo for reducing pain due to chronic musculoskeletal
conditions.71 The best evidence was for topical diclofenac in osteoarthritis, where the number needed to treat
(NNT) for at least 50% pain relief over eight to 12 weeks compared with placebo was 6.4 for the diclofenac
solution (four studies n=1,006), and 11 for the diclofenac gel (four studies, n=2,120). It was not possible to 1++
calculate NNTs of other individual topical NSAIDs compared with placebo. There was no difference in efficacy
in a direct comparison of a topical NSAID with an oral NSAID. Local adverse events (mostly mild skin reactions)
were more common with topical NSAIDs compared with placebo or oral NSAIDs, but there was no increase
in serious adverse events. Gastrointestinal adverse events with topical NSAIDs did not differ from placebo,
but were less frequent than with oral NSAIDs.71
A
Topical NSAIDs should be considered in the treatment of patients with chronic pain from
musculoskeletal conditions, particularly in patients who cannot tolerate oral NSAIDs.
5.2.5topical capsaicin
Topical capsaicin is available as low dose cream (0.025% or 0.075%) or as a high dose (8%) patch.
Few studies of low dose cream were identified but it appears to have no benefit over placebo cream for
++
patients with neuropathic pain.72 For patients with osteoarthritis three RCTs, ranging from four or twelve 1+
1
weeks in duration, found that low dose capsaicin cream is better than placebo.73
In studies of patients with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and patients with human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV) neuropathy, application of an 8% patch gives significant benefit over placebo.74 In patients with PHN
the NNT was 7 (95% CI 4.6 to 15) for those who were better or very much better at 12 weeks. In patients 1++
with HIV neuropathy the NNT was 5.8 (95% CI 3.8 to 12) for those who were better or very much better at
12 weeks. Although of benefit, the cost and specialist application mean that it should be used when other
therapies have failed.
A
Topical capsaicin patches (8%) should be considered in the treatment of patients with peripheral
neuropathic pain when first line pharmacological therapies have been ineffective or not tolerated.
| 11
Management of chronic pain
5.2.6topical lidocaine
Topical lidocaine is better than placebo in treating patients with postherpetic neuralgia (p=0.003) based on ++
1
results from three RCTs.75,76
A systematic review on the use of lidocaine plaster for patients with refractory neuropathic pain (pain not
responding to a number of standard treatments) concluded that little evidence is available, results of studies
1+
were inconsistent and there is not strong enough evidence on which to base a recommendation.77
SMC accept the use of lidocaine plaster for patients with neuropathic pain when first line therapies have
failed (see section 11.4).
B
Topical lidocaine should be considered for the treatment of patients with postherpetic neuralgia
if first line pharmacological therapies have been ineffective.
5.2.7topical rubefacients
Topical rubefacients are more effective than topical placebo for pain reduction (NNT 6.2, 95% CI 4.0 to 13) ++
1
in patients with musculoskeletal conditions.78
B
Topical rubifacients should be considered for the treatment of pain in patients with musculoskeletal
conditions if other pharmacological therapies have been ineffective.
5.3opioids
Over the last few decades, opioids have been used increasingly in chronic pain management, with a number
of potential reasons for this increase, including new preparations and formulations of opioids, changes in
patient expectation, medical practice and societal attitudes.
There are a number of different classifications for opioids, but for the purposes of this guideline they are
divided into weak opioids, with limited potency at the mu opioid receptor (MOR) and strong opioids, with
greater potency at the MOR. Weak opioids include codeine and tramadol with defined upper dose limits in the
BNF. Strong opioids include morphine, diamorphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine
and methadone, with some of the newer formulations allowing very low dosing, with an equivalent effect to
weak opioids. There is limited evidence for the accuracy of dose equivalence tables and caution should be
exercised in changing from one opioid to another (see Annex 4 for a pathway for using strong opioids).11
Another factor that must be considered when assessing opioid responses, is that several opioids, including
codeine, tramadol, oxycodone and hydrocodone are affected by variations in metabolism, mediated by
cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP2D6, resulting in unpredictable effects in individuals. As codeine is a pro-drug
(its main effect relies on being metabolised to morphine), the five to ten per cent of the population who are
poor metabolisers have very little analgesia, whereas the five to ten percent who are hyper-metabolisers will
have an increased drug effect. There is considerable inter-ethnic variability in gene encoding for CYP2D6.79
Tapentadol is a relatively new opioid preparation that is classed as a strong opioid, but also inhibits
noradrenergic reuptake. This may have advantages in some chronic pain conditions such as neuropathic
or mixed pains.
A number of systematic reviews identified RCTs of the efficacy of opioids, although none were judged as
potentially free of bias.59,80-84 One systematic review and meta-analysis of patients with chronic non-cancer 1++
pain on strong opioids for at least six months, identified only one RCT, with the remainder being non-RCTs 2++
or pre-post case series, reflecting the difficulty of carrying out long duration RCTs.84
Although there was considerable heterogeneity, four studies of oral opioids found an SMD at six months of
1.55 (95% CI 0.85 to 2.25), suggesting a clinically important reduction in pain from baseline.84 There was a
high drop-out rate, indicating that those who either do not benefit or have unacceptable side effects drop 1++
out early. Transdermal opioids showed a large reduction in pain (SMD 7.56, 95% CI 4.65 to 10.19) although this 1+
was based on only two studies. Quality of life assessments were limited, with no clear evidence of clinically
significant benefit from either oral or transdermal opioids. There was some improvement in physical function
12 |
5 • Pharmacological therapies
with transdermal opioids at 12 to 13 months.84 Studies of transdermal buprenorphine in a relatively low
dose (20 µg/hr), used an enriched enrolment design (the exclusion of non-responders or specific inclusion of 1++
+
responders) and found that the 20 µg/hr preparation was effective for up to 12 weeks compared to placebo, 1
with conservative imputation methods and also had beneficial effects on quality of life.85,86
Another systematic review of RCTs of patients with chronic pain found moderate evidence for tramadol in
patients with osteoarthritis, but found limited high quality evidence for other opioids, with most studies 1++
being of less than 12 weeks duration.82
There is no clear evidence that any particular opioid, including morphine, is better than any other in terms
of efficacy for pain relief, although patients were more likely to discontinue buprenorphine than morphine
because of lack of effect (odds ratio (OR) 2.32, 95% CI 1.37 to 3.95).80 Compared to morphine, patients were 1++
more likely to discontinue methadone because of adverse effects (OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.14 to 8.36). Both fentanyl
(OR 0.29, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.5) and buprenorphine (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.53) were associated with fewer
adverse effects than morphine.80 A systematic review of methadone identified just two trials on patients
with chronic pain which were only of eight weeks duration.87
There is limited evidence from systematic reviews for the efficacy and safety of tapentadol, as it has been
licensed relatively recently. There have, however, been a number of large RCTs in osteoarthritis (mainly of the
knee) and chronic back pain. These used an active comparator group (oxycodone) in addition to placebo. The
drop-out rate was high in the studies with up to 65% of oxycodone treated patients failing to complete in
one study and 40-45% dropping out in the placebo and tapentadol groups.88 A pooled analysis of three RCTs 1+
of tapentadol (prolonged release, 100-250 mg, twice daily) versus placebo or oxycodone found evidence
for efficacy of tapentadol (least squared mean difference (LSMD) versus placebo -0.6, 95% CI -0.80 to -0.39;
p<0.001) and to a lesser extent, oxycodone (LSMD versus placebo -0.3, 95% CI -0.53 to -0.12; p=0.002) at 12
weeks.89 Using conservative imputation methods, oxycodone did not demonstrate efficacy, possibly due to
the high drop-out rates, with adverse effects being higher in the oxycodone group.89
Meta-analysis of data from 11,927 patients, using enriched enrolment design, showed efficacy from both
weak opioids (effect size 0.55, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.66 for pain relief and 0.31, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.41 for function) 1+
and strong opioids (0.60, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.77 for pain relief and 0.37, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.52 for function).90
The clinical effectiveness of opioid therapy in any individual should be regularly assessed, with clearly
defined stopping strategies, should there be inadequate pain relief or unacceptable side effects. There is a 1++
rationale for opioid rotation, if the initial choice of opioid is ineffective, and even more so if adverse effects
are unacceptable.80
Three RCTs of tramadol for patients with chronic low back pain, of up to 90 days duration, with very strict
entry criteria and high drop-out rates, found a modest benefit compared to placebo, with a reduction of
10.8 points on a 100-point visual analogue scale (VAS) (SMD 0.71, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.02), which is of unclear ++
1
clinical benefit.81 Similar results were found in the other reviews and meta-analyses, with a moderate effect 2++
size and improvements of between 10 to 20 on a 100-point VAS,59, 60 although one good quality review found
no significant reduction in pain compared to baseline and when opioids were compared to placebo or active
controls there was limited evidence of efficacy.83
In elderly patients, opioids (average doses of 63 mg, 24-165 mg/day) are effective in reducing pain and
physical disability, but have some adverse effects on mental health. Only five studies were of more than +
1
12 weeks duration. In this patient group, there was a greater effect size for patients with neuropathic pain
(-0.91, p<0.001) compared to patients with osteoarthritis (-0.46, p<0.001).91
No improvement in pain relief was found by adding short-acting opioids as rescue use medication for patients
2++
using long term opioids, but reported rates of nausea (25%) did not increase either.92
In elderly patients, the effect size of long-acting opioids was greater than immediate-release opioids for pain
2++
and physical functioning, but this was not significant.91
| 13
Management of chronic pain
5.3.1
Side effects
One of the main reasons for high drop-out rates in clinical trials of opioids is side effects. Not only does this
impact on analysis, but it also has implications for clinical practice, as side effects come with both a financial 2cost (in terms of treating them) and an adverse impact on quality of life.93
Two systematic reviews primarily examined adverse events, but this was restricted to reporting of nausea,
constipation and somnolence.92,93 Significantly less constipation was experienced with the use of tramadol
and fentanyl than other opioids.92 Patients using oxycodone experienced more somnolence than those
using other opioids.92 Other commonly reported adverse events with long term use of opioids include 2
2++
gastrointestinal effects (constipation, nausea, dyspepsia), headache, fatigue, lethargy, somnolence, and
urinary complications (retention hesitancy, disturbance).84 A few serious side effects such as sedation and
respiratory depression were reported. Adverse effects led to discontinuation in 11% of patients on weak
opioids and 35-39% on strong opioids.84
Long term opioid therapy has a moderate increased risk of fractures (pooled RR 1.32 to 1.42), although this +
2
evidence is derived from meta-analysis of studies with considerable heterogeneity.94
5.3.2opioid misuse
Reporting on opioid addiction is variable, with many studies of opioid use specifically excluding patients
with a past history of substance misuse. Where addiction or abuse was reported an event rate of 0.27%
(7 out of 2613 patients studied) was found.84 In patients pre-selected to be at low risk, 0.19% of patients ++
2
versus 3.27% in the non-selected group were found to meet criteria for addiction, with 0.59% versus 11.5%
displaying adverse drug-related behaviour.95 Lifetime prevalence estimates of substance use disorders in
patients receiving opioids for chronic back pain did not differ markedly from those of the group not receiving
opioids (current, 23% for both groups; lifetime, 54% versus 52%, respectively).83
A systematic review of opioids in elderly patients found that older age was associated with a lower likelihood
of abuse.91 One large scale study of patients receiving opioids (n=15,160) found that fewer than one per cent 1+
of patients >60 years and four per cent of those <60 years had diagnosed opioid misuse.91
The use of validated tools or urine drug testing to identify patients at risk of developing iatrogenic opioid
misuse has been studied. A systematic review found weak evidence from moderate quality studies that
high scores on the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain (SOAPP Version 1) increased the
likelihood for any future aberrant drug-related behaviour (positive likelihood ratios (PLR) 2.90, 95% CI, 1.91
to 4.39).96 Low scores on the SOAPP Version 1 moderately decreased the likelihood of aberrant drug-related
++
behaviours (negative likelihood ratio (NLR) 0.13, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.34). The revised SOAPP gave similar results. 2
One poor quality study using the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT) found that categorisation of patients as high or
low risk strongly affected the likelihood of future aberrant drug-related behaviours (PLR 14.3, 95% CI, 5.35
to 38.4, and 0.08, 95% CI, 0.01 to 0.62, respectively). The Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM) screening
tool demonstrated a weak increase in the likelihood of current aberrant drug-related behaviours (PLR 2.77,
95% CI, 2.06 to 3.72) with high scores and reduced likelihood with lower scores (NLR 0.5, 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.52).
There was no good evidence for the use of urine drug screening, pill counts or prescription drug monitoring
programmes to detect misuse development.96
5.3.3opioid dose
Opioids are one of the few classes of analgesics where there is not always a maximum recommended dose
for particular drugs, nor is there any agreed definition of what constitutes high dose opioid therapy. The
American Pain Society Guidelines use a definition of >200 mg morphine equivalent per day, based on a
4
review of the published literature, whereas the British Pain Society Guidelines recommend specialist referral 2++
for doses of 120-180 mg or greater.96,97 The risk of overdose on higher doses may be greater, with a cohort
study of a small number of overdoses finding a 0.2% annual risk in patients on <20 mg/day morphine and
1.8% risk in patients on >100 mg/day of morphine.98
14 |
5 • Pharmacological therapies
B
Strong opioids should be considered as an option for pain relief for patients with chronic low
back pain or osteoarthritis, and only continued if there is ongoing pain relief. Regular review is
required.
B
Patients prescribed opioids should be advised of the likelihood of common side effects such as
nausea and constipation.
ll patients on strong opioids should be assessed regularly for changes in pain relief, side effects and
A
quality of life, with consideration given to a gradual reduction to the lowest effective dose.
B
It may be necessary to trial more than one opioid sequentially, as both effectiveness and side
effects vary between opioids.
pioid rotation should be considered for chronic pain that is likely to respond to opioids, if there are
O
problems with efficacy or side effects.
C
Signs of abuse and addiction should be sought at re-assessment of patients using strong opioids.
Routine urine drug testing, pill counts or prescription monitoring should not be used to detect
problem use.
B
Currently available screening tools should not be relied upon to obtain an accurate prediction of
patients at risk of developing problem opioid use before commencing treatment.
T here should be careful assessment of pre-existing risk factors for developing opioid misuse. In
patients where opioid therapy is indicated, but there is an increased risk of iatrogenic opioid misuse,
specialist advice should be sought. The minimal effective dose should be used to avoid increased
problems of fracture and overdose that may occur on higher doses.
D
Specialist referral or advice should be considered if there are concerns about rapid-dose escalation
with continued unacceptable pain relief, or if >180 mg/day morphine equivalent dose is required.
5.4anti-epilepsy drugs
5.4.1gabapentin
Using the IMMPACT definition of at least moderate benefit (at least 30% reduction in pain) gabapentin at daily
doses of at least 1,200 mg is superior to placebo for pain relief in patients with postherpetic neuralgia, painful
diabetic neuropathy or mixed neuropathic pain (NNT 6.8, 95% CI 5.6 to 8.7).99 Adverse events occurred 1++
significantly more often with gabapentin, most commonly dizziness (21%), somnolence (16%), peripheral
oedema (8%), and gait disturbance (9%). Serious adverse events (4%) were no more common than with
placebo.
One RCT demonstrated a 30% reduction in pain over baseline, with 38/75 participants with fibromyalgia
(49%) achieving the outcome with gabapentin compared with 23/75 (31%) with placebo. The relative benefit 1++
was 1.6 (95% CI 1.1 to 2.4) and the NNT was 5.4 (95% CI 2.9 to 31).99
Gabapentin was clinically and statistically superior to placebo in reducing pain reported by patients with
chronic masticatory myalgia, masticatory muscle hyperalgesia and impact on daily functioning in a small 1+
RCT.100
A
Gabapentin (titrated up to at least 1,200 mg daily) should be considered for the treatment of patients
with neuropathic pain.
| 15
Management of chronic pain
5.4.2pregabalin
Pregabalin at doses of 300 mg, 450 mg, and 600 mg daily was effective in patients with various types of
neuropathic pain. Pregabalin at 150 mg daily was generally ineffective.101 The lowest NNT for each condition
for at least 50% pain relief over baseline for 600 mg pregabalin daily compared with placebo were 3.9 (95% ++
1
CI 3.1 to 5.1) for patients with postherpetic neuralgia, 5.0 (95% CI 4.0 to 6.6) for patients with painful diabetic
neuropathy, 5.6 (3.5 to 14) for patients with central neuropathic pain, and 11 (95% CI 7.1 to 21) for patients with
fibromyalgia.101 Higher rates of substantial benefit (≥50% pain relief) were found in patients with postherpetic
neuralgia and painful diabetic neuropathy than in patients with central neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia.101
One RCT found pregabalin to be an effective adjuvant therapy for patients with chronic pancreatitis after
three weeks of treatment, with reduction in pain reported in 36% versus 24% placebo, (95% CI 22% to 1+
2%, p=0.02) and a higher health status, Patient’s Global Impression of Change (PGIC) score reported in the
pregabalin group compared to placebo (44% versus 21%, p=0.048).102
With 600 mg pregabalin daily treatment was discontinued due to adverse events in 18% to 28% of patients.101
Somnolence typically occurred in 15% to 25% of patients and dizziness occurred in 27% to 46%.101 Adverse
events related to cognition and co-ordination are commonly reported with the use of pregabalin, although 1++
+
none are considered to be serious, and they are dose related.103 A flexible dosing strategy (150-600 mg per 1
day based on clinical response and tolerability) may reduce discontinuations, facilitate a higher final dose
and give slightly greater pain relief.104
Pregabalin is not helpful in the treatment of patients with chronic prostatitis, pelvic pain or HIV neuropathy.105,106 1++
SMC restricts the use of pregabalin to adults with peripheral neuropathic pain where other first and second
line pharmacological treatments have failed (see section 11.4).
A pathway for patients with neuropathic pain can be found in Annex 3.
A
Pregabalin (titrated up to at least 300 mg daily) is recommended for the treatment of patients with
neuropathic pain if other first and second line pharmacological treatments have failed.
A
Pregabalin (titrated up to at least 300 mg daily) is recommended for the treatment of patients with
fibromyalgia.
B
Flexible dosing may improve tolerability. Failure to respond after an appropriate dose for several
weeks should result in trial of a different compound.
Pregabalin does not have marketing authorisation for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia.
5.4.3carbamazepine
In patients with neuropathic pain carbamazepine (any dose), is significantly better than placebo over four
weeks using any definition of improvement (NNT 1.7). The trials were generally of short duration and with
++
some design limitations, including small sample size. Results were similar in studies reporting a 50% pain 1
reduction over baseline. Sixty six per cent of participants using carbamazepine reported adverse events, the
most common of which was rashes.107
B
Carbamazepine should be considered for the treatment of patients with neuropathic pain. Potential
risks of adverse events should be discussed.
16 |
5 • Pharmacological therapies
5.4.4other anti-epilepsy drugs
There is little evidence from a systematic review that sodium valproate is an effective first line treatment for
patients with chronic pain.108
A systematic review found that lacosamide is not likely to be beneficial in treating patients with neuropathic
pain.109
Lamotrigine was found to provide no benefit in the treatment of patients with chronic pain.110
No evidence was found to support the use of phenytoin in the treatment of patients with neuropathic pain
or in fibromyalgia.111
1++
There is no evidence to support the use of clonazepam in the treatment of patients with chronic neuropathic
pain or fibromyalgia.112
One RCT investigating levetiracetam did not show it to be clinically effective in the treatment of pain in
patients with polyneuropathy.113
No evidence was found on the efficacy of topiramate for the treatment of patients with chronic pain.
5.5antidepressants
Drugs that potentiate noradrenaline and serotonin or predominantly noradrenergic mechanisms (tricyclic
antidepressants (TCA)/serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)), are more effective than selective 1+
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) for treating neuropathic pain.114
There was insufficient evidence to determine the use of antidepressants in patients with temporomandibular ++
1
disorders.115
5.5.1
atients with chronic pain conditions using antidepressants should be reviewed regularly and assessed
P
for ongoing need and to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Tricyclic antidepressants
There is no significant difference between tricyclic antidepressants and placebo in pain relief for patients
1++
with chronic low back pain.60,116
Use of TCA for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia can improve pain scores (SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.55
to -0.30; p <0.001), depression (SMD -0.26, 95% CI, -0.39 to -0.12; p <0.001), sleep disturbances (SMD -0.32, 1++
95% CI, -0.46 to -0.18; p < 0.001) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) (SMD -0.31, 95% CI, -0.42 to -0.20;
p <0.001).117
In patients with fibromyalgia amitriptyline was effective in reducing pain (SMD -1.64, 95% CI, -2.57 to -0.71;
p < 0.001), fatigue (SMD -1.12, 95% CI, -1.87 to -0.38; p=0.003), and sleep disturbances (weighted mean 1++
difference (WMD) -1.84, 95% CI -2.62 to -1.06; p<0.001). The effect size on depression was not statistically
significant and small in HRQOL.117
Nortriptyline combined with morphine had limited effectiveness in the treatment of patients with sciatica.118
This small RCT had a very high drop-out rate. Amitriptyline is more efficacious than placebo in relieving
neuropathic pain in patients with chronic spinal cord injury with either low or high grade depression.119 1+
++
Amitriptyline is sometimes used to treat arm pain related to repetitive use, but robust evidence of its benefit 1
is lacking. An RCT found that low dose amitriptyline did not significantly decrease arm pain among these
participants but did significantly improve arm function and well-being.120
Trials of amitriptyline (25 mg to 125 mg) reporting ≥30% reduction in pain demonstrated no evidence of
effect in patients with HIV-related neuropathic pain. Analysis of combined results for patients with painful ++
1
diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, post-stroke pain or fibromyalgia did show benefit (RR 2.3, 95%
CI 1.8 to 3.1) compared to placebo.121 The systematic review concluded that amitriptyline is effective for a
minority of patients.
| 17
Management of chronic pain
A
Tricyclic antidepressants should not be used for the management of pain in patients with chronic
low back pain.
A
Amitriptyline (25 - 125 mg/day) should be considered for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia
and neuropathic pain (excluding HIV-related neuropathic pain).
5.5.2
It may be appropriate to try alternative tricyclic antidepressants to reduce the side effect profile.
Serotonin norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor
There is some evidence to support the use of duloxetine 60-120 mg in patients with chronic low back pain.
Mean changes in SF-36 bodily pain scores during treatment were 1.36 with placebo, 1.95 with duloxetine +
1
60 mg (p<0.05 versus placebo), and 2.11 with duloxetine 120 mg (p<0.05 versus placebo). Mean changes
in RMQD-24 were -1.3 with placebo, -2.7 with duloxetine 60 mg (p<0.05 versus placebo), and -2.9 with
duloxetine 120 mg (p<0.05 versus placebo).122
Several studies and meta-analyses have shown benefit of duloxetine in patients with a variety of chronic pain
conditions. A meta-analysis of pain control in fibromyalgia has shown that treatment with duloxetine was 1++
associated with better pain control (30% improvement in pain score, RR 1.52, 95% CI 1.24 to 1.86, p<0.0001
versus placebo; 50% improvement in pain score, RR 1.60, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.10, p=0.0007).123
Duloxetine 60 mg daily is effective in treating painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy in the short term to
12 weeks (RR for 50% pain reduction at 12 weeks 1.65 (95% CI 1.34 to 2.03), number needed to treat (NNT) 1++
6 (95% CI 5 to 10).124
Pooled data analyses from two studies in patients with knee osteoarthritis show that 64.9% of patients in the
duloxetine group, compared with 44.9% in the placebo group, reported improvement in pain from baseline to
end point (RR 1.45, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.71; p < 0.001).125 Treatment with duloxetine 60-120 mg daily is associated
with significant pain reduction and improved function in patients with pain due to osteoarthritis of the 1+
++
knee.126 In this study, the Brief Pain Inventory scale (BPI) average pain response rates (≥30% pain reduction 1
from baseline to end point) were significantly higher in the duloxetine group versus placebo group (65.3%
versus 44.1%, p≤0.001). The 50% response rates of BPI average pain did not significantly differ between the
two groups (duloxetine 43.8% versus placebo 32.3%, p=0.068).
Duloxetine was statistically superior to placebo in patients with chronic back pain on the primary endpoint
objective of reduction in average weekly pain from weeks 3-12 but lost statistical significance at the final 1++
week.122 Duloxetine showed a statistically significant reduction in BPI average pain compared with placebo.127
Duloxetine and milnacipran were effective in reducing pain by ≥50% in patients with fibromyalgia (SMD,
-0.23, 95% CI -0.29 to -0.18) compared to placebo. There were no significant improvements in quality of life, 1++
reduction in fatigue or sleep disruption.128
Rates of reported adverse effects and drop-out due to adverse events did not differ between treatment and ++
1
placebo groups.117
Forty per cent of patients with fibromyalgia reported ≥30% pain relief with milnacipran 100 mg or 200 mg
compared with placebo (NNT 6 to 10). Adverse effects, such as nausea and constipation, were experienced 1++
by 87% of participants treated with milnacipran compared to 78% of the placebo group.129
SMC restricts the use of duloxetine as a second or third line therapy for adults with diabetic peripheral
neuropathic pain (see section 11.4).
A pathway for patients with neuropathic pain can be found in Annex 3.
18 |
5 • Pharmacological therapies
A
Duloxetine (60 mg/day) should be considered for the treatment of patients with diabetic
neuropathic pain if other first or second line pharmacological therapies have failed.
A
Duloxetine (60 mg/day) should be considered for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia or
osteoarthritis.
Duloxetine does not have marketing authorisation for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia or
osteoarthritis. Milnacipran is not available in the UK.
5.5.3
Selective Serotonin re-uptake inhibitor
A meta-analysis reported evidence for the efficacy of SSRIs fluoxetine (20-80 mg/day) and paroxetine (12.562.5 mg/day) in reducing pain in patients with fibromyalgia (SMD -0.39, 95% CI, -0.77 to -0.01; p=0.04). 1++
Effects were small for depressed mood and HRQOL and there were no effects on fatigue or sleep. Data for
paroxetine were from a single RCT.117
B
Fluoxetine (20-80 mg/day) should be considered for the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia.
5.5.4
Chronic pain with concomitant depression
An RCT of patients with chronic pain and moderate depression given optimised antidepressant therapy for
12 weeks followed by a 12 week pain self management programme resulted in 37% of patients achieving
1++
a ≥50% reduction in depression compared to 16% receiving usual care (RR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.2) after 12
months. There were also moderate reductions in pain severity (≥30% reduction in pain in 51% treatment
group versus 17% usual care, RR 2.4, 95% CI 1.6 to 3.3) and disability.130
B
Optimised antidepressant therapy should be considered for the treatment of patients with chronic
pain with moderate depression.
epression is a common comorbidity with chronic pain. Patients should be monitored and treated
D
for depression when necessary.
5.6combination therapies
There is some evidence for combining therapies in patients with neuropathic pain, with a systematic review
identifying 21 double blind RCTs comparing combinations of at least two drugs.57 In four studies (n=578) the
combination of opioid and gabapentin or pregabalin were studied. Other combinations included opioid plus ++
1
a tricyclic antidepressant (n=776), gabapentin and nortriptyline (n=56), and a variety of topical medications
(n=604). A high drop-out rate was common, with problematic side effects such as sedation and cognitive
dysfunction, which may limit the utility of combination therapies. Meta-analysis of studies of opioid plus
gabapentin (n=386) showed superiority for the combination over gabapentin alone.57
One small trial suggests that a combination of nortriptyline and gabapentin is more efffective than either ++
1
drug alone.57
The addition of glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray to sodium valproate may improve pain control in diabetes ++
1
although the evidence for valproate is poor.57
A
Combination therapies should be considered for patients with neuropathic pain (a pathway for
patients with neuropathic pain can be found in Annex 3).
A
In patients with neuropathic pain who do not respond to gabapentinoid (gabapentin/pregabalin)
alone, and who are unable to tolerate other combinations, consideration should be given to the
addition of an opioid such as morphine or oxycodone. The risks and benefits of opioid use need
to be considered.
No evidence was identified on other combinations of therapies for treating patients with chronic pain.
| 19
Management of chronic pain
6
Psychologically based interventions
It has long been recognised that the perception of pain, and the disability that often arises from it, is inextricably
linked to an individual’s emotional, cognitive and social functioning.131 Living with chronic pain can also
significantly affect an individual’s mental health and, consequently, their response to treatment.132
ealthcare professionals referring patients for psychological assessment should attempt to assess and
H
address any concerns the patient may have about such a referral. It may be helpful to explicitly state
that the aims of psychological interventions are to increase coping skills and improve quality of life
when faced with the challenges of living with pain.
6.1multidisciplinary pain management programmes
Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial treatment, also known as a pain management programme (PMP), addresses
the complexities experienced by patients with chronic pain.133 The definition of multidisciplinary biopsychosocial
treatment of patients with chronic pain is variable amongst studies. Three systematic reviews used the inclusion
of one physical dimension and one or more psychological, social or occupational dimensions as a minimum for
their definition.134-136 Another defined multidisciplinary treatment as including at least three of the following
categories: psychotherapy, physiotherapy, relaxation techniques, medical treatment, patient education or
vocational therapy.137 Inconsistencies in the reported results may be due to the differences in the definition
of multidisciplinary treatment, the treatment combinations, treatment intensity, setting and heterogeneity of
the study populations and control groups.
Positive results were found in a systematic review addressing non-specific musculoskeletal conditions which
grouped outcome domains into primary (pain, mood, quality of life (QoL), function and coping) and secondary
(physical capacity, return to work rate, sick leave, use of healthcare system, medication, pain behaviour, quality
of sleep and other domains (eg subjective improvement).137 An intervention was judged as successful if it
showed itself to be superior to the control condition on at least two primary outcomes or on one primary and 1++
two secondary outcomes. Thirteen of fifteen studies had positive results that multidisciplinary programmes
are superior to no treatment or standard medical treatment. The differences after treatment were maintained
in those studies which included long term follow up. Multidisciplinary treatment was also superior to other
unidisciplinary treatments (eg physiotherapy or education) in ten of the 15 studies identified. This was maintained
in follow up. Patients with low back pain or fibromyalgia had greater benefits than those with diverse origins
of chronic pain diagnoses.
Of the systematic reviews that looked at outcomes separately, two concluded that there is no demonstrable
effect that multidisciplinary treatment reduces pain for clients with non-specific chronic low back pain (CLBP)
compared to no treatment or usual care.134,136 In contrast a third systematic review found moderate evidence ++
1
that multidisciplinary treatment is superior compared to no treatment (WMD -9.47, 95% CI -13.87 to -5.87) or
other active treatments (eg physiotherapy, WMD -11.55, 95% CI -19.68 to -3.43) for reduction in short term pain
intensity but moderate quality evidence of no differences in long term pain (WMD compared to no treatment
-9.27, 95% CI -27.86 to 9.12; WMD compared to active control -3.34, 95% CI -11.64 to 4.97).135
There is no demonstrable effect that multidisciplinary treatment improves functional status or disability for ++
1
patients with CLBP (WMD -8.84, 95% CI -18.49 to 0.82).134-136
One systematic review cited two high quality studies which addressed long term quality of life in patients who
++
received intensive (≥30 hours/week) multidisciplinary treatment. Only one of the studies reported significant 1
improvements in the multidisciplinary treatment group compared to controls.136
In patients with fibromyalgia with a risk profile for heightened psychological distress, the intervention, (described
as targeted cognitive behavioural therapy, but also including physiotherapy, therefore multidisciplinary
++
treatment) was found to be significantly effective in both the short and long term (six month follow up) in 1
reducing pain intensity, fatigue, disability, negative mood and quality of life, compared to a waiting list control
group.138
20 |
6 • Psychologically based interventions
One small study examined the effects of a pain management programme on outcomes for individuals with
neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury.139 Compared to waiting list controls, the intervention group
1+
experienced significant changes in two out of four secondary outcome domains not seen in the control group;
a reduction in anxiety and an increase in participation in activities. There were no significant differences on
pain intensity, pain-related disability, depression and life satisfaction.
C
Referral to a pain management programme should be considered for patients with chronic pain.
6.2
unidisciplinary education
Persistent pain differs from acute pain that everyone experiences occasionally. It has therefore been considered
beneficial to educate patients about these differences in order to help them understand and manage their pain
and reduce any unwarranted concerns that they may have. Educational interventions have varied in terms of
length, topics covered, the profession of those delivering them and whether or not they were combined with
other therapies.
6.2.1
Brief education
Brief education for patients with CLBP is effective in reducing sick leave and disability when compared to
usual care.140 Brief education in a clinical setting (defined as "examination, information, reassurance and 1++
advice to stay active") was not shown to be any more effective at reducing pain than usual care alone.140
There is limited evidence that brief education compared to other active interventions, such as spinal
++
stabilisation, yoga, physiotherapy treatment, exercise, acupuncture and massage, is effective for pain or 1
140,141
disability in either the short- or the long-term.
No evidence was found on the effects of brief education on emotional outcomes, such as depression.
C
Brief education should be given to patients with chronic pain to help patients continue to work.
6.2.2
Pain neurophysiology education
Pain neurophysiology education (PNE) compared to a biomechanically focused education programme,
produces statistically significant but clinically small improvements in pain intensity. When PNE was added
to a pain management programme and compared to a PMP with education based on The Back Book there
was evidence that the PNE group had significantly greater reductions in pain in the short-medium-and 1+
++
long-terms.142,143 Although the amount of evidence is limited, PNE appears to be associated with short 1
term reduction in pain intensity. Reading a book of stories and metaphors related to pain neurophysiology,
however, did not produce benefits in terms of pain reduction, but did reduce the level of catastrophising
and increased participants understanding of pain neurophysiology when this was compared to reading a
book of traditional pain management advice.144
Results are more mixed for the effects of PNE on disability with only one study finding small, short term
effects on disability, whilst the other study that examined PNE in combination with a PMP failed to find any +
1
differences either in the short-, medium- or long-term.142 Similarly, reading a book of metaphors and stories ++
1
relating to pain neurophysiology did not decrease disability when compared to reading a book of traditional
pain management advice.144
There is some evidence that PNE produces reliable short term improvements in measures of attitudes towards
pain. In combination with a PMP, PNE produced greater benefits than a PMP with The Back Book education, +
1
in terms of work status at medium- and long-term, but not in the short term. More research is required to
improve the confidence in these results.142
| 21
Management of chronic pain
6.3behavioural therapies
6.3.1
Respondent behavioural therapies
Respondent treatment aims to modify the physiological response system to pain, through reduction of
muscular tension. The theoretical basis of this approach is the assumption of the existence of a pain-tension
cycle, where pain is viewed as both a cause and a result of muscular tension. Respondent treatment attempts
to interrupt this cycle by using a tension-incompatible reaction, such as relaxation. Electromyographic (EMG)
biofeedback, progressive relaxation, and applied relaxation are used to reduce the assumed muscular tension,
relieve anxiety, and subsequently pain.145
There is low quality evidence that progressive relaxation is effective for short term pain relief compared to no
treatment and comparing pain intensity before and after treatment, in patients with chronic low back pain
1++
(WMD -19.77, 95% CI -34.34 to -5.20 and WMD -19.74, 95% CI -34.32 to -5.16).135,145 It also improved short term
functional status and disability.135,145 Two small RCTs (n=58) suggest that progressive relaxation is not effective
for depression in the short term.145
EMG biofeedback is also effective for short term pain relief, although this conclusion is based on low quality
studies.135, 145 One systematic review found EMG biofeedback to be effective when disability was measured 1++
pre- and post-treatment (WMD -7.33, 95% CI -21.38 to 6.73),135 but in another, two small RCTs suggest that it
does not improve short term functional status (SMD -0.17, 95% CI -1.56 to 1.22).145
There was no difference between progressive relaxation and cognitive therapy on post-treatment pain intensity,
disability, long term pain or long term disability over any length of follow up, although these conclusions are 1++
based on RCTs with a small number of participants.135,145
One systematic review identified one small RCT which found EMG biofeedback to be as effective as cognitive
behavioural therapy (CBT) post-treatment and at six month follow up for pain and behavioural outcomes.135 1++
Another small RCT found it to be more effective than progressive relaxation for short term pain relief.145 Adding
EMG biofeedback to CBT for patients with chronic low back pain did not confer any further benefit.146
A systematic review which compared self regulatory treatments (SRTs), defined as biofeedback, relaxation and
hypnosis, to waiting list control concluded SRTs are effective at reducing post-treatment pain intensity (effect 1++
size 0.75, p<0.001) and reducing depression, immediately post treatment (effect size 0.81, p<0.05).147
Respondent therapy is as effective as CBT in improving pain relief immediately post treatment, and functional
status immediately post treatment and up to six month follow up. Results for depression were superior for 1++
respondent therapy immediately post-treatment, but there was no significant difference at six month follow
up.145
C
Progressive relaxation or EMG biofeedback should be considered for the treatment of patients
with chronic pain.
6.3.2operant behavioural therapies
Operant therapy is based on the notion that unhelpful responses can be reinforced, either by the individual’s
own behaviour, or through the behaviour of others. For example, the avoidance of pain through the avoidance
of activity is one type of natural reinforcement. Alternatively, overly concerned family, friends or healthcare
professionals may inadvertently reinforce excessive rest, with negative consequences. Operant approaches
delivered on their own are uncommon in Scotland but frequently form part of multidisciplinary rehabilitation
programmes that are based on cognitive behavioural principles.
Two systematic reviews of patients with chronic low back pain identified RCTs of varying size and quality.135,145
Compared to waiting list controls, pain intensity was reduced post treatment following an operant behavioural 1++
therapy intervention (SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.75 to -0.11, and WMD -7.00, 95% CI -12.33 to-1.67). There was no
evidence of short term improvement in functional outcomes.
Evidence on the effect of operant behavioural therapy on mood is mixed. One review combined outcomes ++
1
from two RCTs (described as low quality) and found no significant difference between operant therapy and
22 |
6 • Psychologically based interventions
waiting list controls on depressive symptoms in the short term.145 A second systematic review identified one
study, with a low risk of bias, which found a significant reduction in negative effect immediately post-treatment 1++
that favoured the operant therapy group.135
Both reviews suggest that combining operant therapy with exercise confers no reliable benefit over exercise ++
1
therapy alone for reduction in pain intensity, depression and improved functional status.135, 145
Evidence of moderate quality showed no significant difference in pain intensity between patients receiving
operant therapy compared to those receiving cognitive therapy in the short- to medium-term. There was no 1++
significant difference between operant therapy and combined behavioural treatments for improved pain
relief in the short-, medium- or long-term.145
linicians should be aware of the possibility that their own behaviour, and the clinical environment,
C
can impact on reinforcement of unhelpful responses.
6.4cognitive behavioural therapy
Although many PMPs are based on cognitive behavioural principles CBT can also be delivered as a unidisciplinary
intervention, facilitated by appropriately qualified staff.
A systematic review found no short term benefit of CBT compared to usual care in patients with orofacial
pain, but at three month follow up there was significant improvement in pain reduction, depression, activity 1++
interference and disability.148
Adding cognitive behavioural principles to exercises for chronic neck pain within unidisciplinary physiotherapy
treatment yielded no additional benefit in terms of disability. Similarly there were no differences between 1+
groups in terms of numerical pain ratings, quality of life, patients’ ratings of treatment efficacy or patients’
satisfaction with the treatment.149
In patients with CLBP CBT is effective in reducing pain intensity immediately post treatment compared to ++
1
waiting list controls. There was no difference in depression or health-related quality of life.147
Compared to waiting list controls, CBT and CBT combined with biofeedback in patients with chronic back pain
both showed benefit in:146
yy r educing pain intensity, CBT; effect size 0.47 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.7), CBT plus biofeedback; 0.67 (95% CI 0.39
to 0.95)
yy reducing consumption of analgesic medicines, CBT; effect size 0.46 (95% CI 0.18 to 0.74), CBT plus
biofeedback; 0.31 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.56)
yy reducing pain-related disability, CBT; effect size 0.38 (95% CI 0.10 to 0.66), CBT plus biofeedback; 0.44 1++
(95% CI 0.18 to 0.70)
yy improvement in health-related quality of life, CBT; effect size 0.47 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.75), CBT plus
biofeedback; 0.39 (95% CI 0.13 to 0.65)
yy improvement in adaptive coping strategies, CBT; effect size 0.82 (95% CI 0.51 to 1.13), CBT plus biofeedback;
0.61 (95% CI 0.34 to 0.88)
yy reducing depression, CBT; effect size 0.29 (95% CI 0.02 to 0.56), CBT plus biofeedback; 0.35 (95% CI 0.09
to 0.61)
yy reducing the number of doctor visits, CBT; effect size 0.33 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.60), CBT plus biofeedback;
0.38 (95% CI 0.12 to 0.64).
These results were maintained at six month follow up with the exception of depression and number of doctor
visits in the CBT group and consumption of analgesic medicines in the combined therapies group.
One small study of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis compared behavioural therapy (BT) to cognitive
therapy (CT) and to CBT.150 Although this study had a small number of participants, where there were
+
differences, these tended to favour therapies with a cognitive component. Improvements were noted in 1
C-reactive protein immediately post treatment and tender joint count. Similar improvements were found in
the CT and CBT groups at six month follow up. Anxiety was improved in the CT and BT groups, post treatment,
but not in the CBT and waiting list group.
| 23
Management of chronic pain
Significant improvements in self rated global health were found after telephone-delivered CBT compared to
usual care in patients with widespread chronic pain, at six- and nine-month follow up.151 At six months sleep
had also improved for patients receiving telephone CBT. Combining telephone CBT with exercise brought a
wider range of benefits at six month follow up compared to usual care including self rated global health, 1++
fatigue, self rated physical health, and active and passive pain coping, but this combined treatment was no
better than usual care when it came to sleep, self rated mental health, combination measure of pain and
functioning and emotional well-being. These differences were maintained in only two measures (self rated
global health and passive pain coping) at nine month follow up.
A small RCT of internet-based CBT showed improvements in the quality of life and pain catastrophising subscale +
1
on the pain coping measure at 12 weeks. Other outcomes were not significantly different to the control group.152
Compared to education alone, CBT appears to be more effective in improving depression and pain
catastrophising, in patients with chronic pain, although this result was not statistically significant after intention- 1+
to-treat analysis.153
C
Cognitive behavioural therapy should be considered for the treatment of patients with chronic
pain.
6.5
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION AND Acceptance and commitment therapy
Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular intervention for chronic pain and other long
term conditions. Through encouraging participants to pay attention in a particular way, it is thought to foster
a greater willingness to accept what are sometimes aversive experiences. Mindfulness meditation is often
delivered as part of a manualised educational package. The most commonly used package is mindfulness
based stress reduction (MBSR). This is a structured programme that combines various meditation practices
with modified yoga exercises and mind-body education.
Like mindfulness meditation, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) encourages participants to reevaluate their relationship with their experiences, including learning to develop a greater distinction between
themselves and their thoughts. These changes are used to help individuals to become more psychologically
flexible. In essence, ACT changes the agenda away from controlling aversive experiences and instead facilitates
a focus on setting values-based goals.
A systematic review of mixed study types found that less well controlled studies showed larger effects and
significant improvements from the use of MBSR across outcome measures: pain (SMD 0.48, 95% CI 0.25 to
0.71), depression (SMD 0.50, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.89), anxiety, physical well-being and quality of life.154 Results from
the randomised controlled trials showed small but significant improvements in pain (SMD 0.25, 95% CI 0.01
to 0.49) and depression (SMD 0.26, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.47) and small to moderate improvements in measures of 2++
++
physical well-being. No significant improvements were found in anxiety or quality of life. The authors found 1
some evidence of a publication bias when depression was used as an outcome measure which suggested that
small studies that found negative results were not being published.154 Some of the studies included may have
been underpowered as sample sizes were small. Two further RCTs concluded that MBSR provided no benefit
compared to controls or an educational programme.155,156
A review of trials of mindfulness based interventions (MBI), which included MBSR in six of the 10 trials, showed
that MBI produced superior results in terms of pain control when compared with an educational control group 2+
and a control group who received massage. CBT was, however, better at reducing pain than MBI.157
Comparisons between patients on an ACT based programme and a CBT programme showed no significant
differences in terms of pain intensity, pain interference, depression, pain-related anxiety, general activity on
the Multidimensional Pain Inventory (MPI), and mental and physical related quality of life rating on the SF-12 1++
scale. The within-groups analysis showed significant improvements in both the ACT and CBT groups following
treatment in terms of pain interference, depression, and pain-related anxiety, but not in pain severity, the MPI
or the SF-12 subscales compared to treatment as usual.158
24 |
7 • Physical therapies
7
Physical therapies
7.1
Manual therapy
7.1.1low back pain
Manual therapy (MT) is an umbrella term that has increasingly been adopted to encompass various forms
of hands-on treatment, including both manipulation and mobilisation.
Mobilisation techniques involve the therapist applying slow, passive movements to a joint; typically the
patient cannot perform these movements independently but they are within the normal physiological range
of motion of the joint. Manipulation is a passive technique where the therapist applies a specifically directed
manual thrust to a joint, at or near the end of the physiological range of motion. This may be accompanied
by an audible ‘crack’ or ‘pop’.
Manual therapy as a treatment option in the management of pain is an intervention that is practised by a
variety of healthcare professionals including physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors. Philosophical
differences exist both within and between the various professions regarding the possible mechanisms of
action of manual therapy.
Whilst there is extensive, although generally poor quality literature, with regards to the effectiveness of
various MT approaches these are usually compared to placebo. There are few head-to-head trials of different
approaches.
For the purpose of the guideline studies were included if they encompassed an intervention that could be
described as including a manual therapy treatment arm.
A Cochrane review found high quality evidence that spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) is as effective as other
interventions, in the short term, for pain relief (SMD -4.16, 95% CI -6.97 to -1.36) and functional status (SMD 1++
-0.22, 95% CI -0.36 to -0.07) for patients with chronic low back pain.159 It was not found to be significantly
more effective than sham or inert interventions, although these studies were of poor quality.159
A mixture of RCTs of varying quality show that SMT has a statistically significant, short term difference on ++
1
pain relief and functional status when combined with another intervention.159
Evidence from poor quality studies show that there is no statistically significant difference in effect on pain ++
1
intensity and disability, from exercise compared to manual therapy at short and long term follow up.135
Massage provides short term pain relief for patients with chronic low back pain, although this conclusion ++
1
is based on studies of low quality.160
B
Manual therapy should be considered for short term relief of pain for patients with chronic low
back pain.
7.1.2neck pain
Manual therapy combined with exercise demonstrated long term improvements in pain (pooled SMD -0.87,
95% CI -1.69 to -0.06), function/disability, and global perceived effect compared to no treatment in patients
with neck pain, although this conclusion is based on low quality studies.161 The same systematic review
++
identified better quality evidence which demonstrated that manual therapy and exercise provides greater 1
short term relief compared with exercise alone (pooled SMD -0.50, 95% CI -0.76 to -0.24). There were no
long term differences across multiple outcomes.161 Combined therapy resulted in greater pain reduction
and improved quality of life compared to manual therapy alone (pooled SMD -0.31, 95% CI -0.61 to -0.02);
heterogeneity: p=0.04, I2=0%).161
Manual therapy may provide short term relief compared with control (pooled SMD -0.90, 95% CI -1.78 to
-0.02).162 Nine or 12 sessions were superior to three for reduction in pain, disability and cervicogenic headache. 1++
These results are based on low quality studies.162
| 25
Management of chronic pain
Low quality evidence supported a single session of thoracic manipulation for immediate pain reduction ++
1
compared to placebo for patients with chronic neck pain (NNT 5, 29% treatment advantage).162
B
Manual therapy, in combination with exercise, should be considered for the treatment of patients
with chronic neck pain.
7.2Exercise
Evidence identified on exercise as a treatment intervention for patients with chronic pain revealed
heterogeneous studies, and a relatively small number of good quality systematic reviews. A lack of clear
definition of the exact format of exercise interventions made direct comparison difficult. Recommendations
can be made relating to exercise approaches and the format of delivery.
7.2.1exercise approach
Aerobic and strength conditioning exercises
In patients with fibromyalgia aerobic-only exercise training at the recommended intensity levels had positive
effects on global well-being (SMD 0.49, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.75) and physical function (SMD 0.66, 95% CI 0.41 to 1++
0.92) and possibly on pain (SMD 0.65, 95% CI -0.09 to 1.39) and tender points (SMD 0.23, 95% CI -0.18 to 0.65).
Supervised aerobic exercise training was also found to have some benefits on fibromyalgia symptoms.163
Movement facilitation and stabilisation exercises
Unloaded movement facilitation exercise compared to no exercise is effective for improving pain and
function in patients with non-specific chronic low back pain. Compared to other types of exercise, including
++
effort-intensive trunk strengthening and time-intensive specific stabilisation, the effects are comparable. 1
For many people with non-specific chronic low back pain, unloaded exercise is as helpful as quite vigorous
exercise against resistance.164
High quality trials support the use of stabilisation exercises in patients with chronic back pain. Overall the
evidence was conflicting and significant differences favouring stabilisation exercises were less likely when 1++
they were compared with active treatment control groups rather than inactive control groups.165
Walking
A systematic review identified moderate evidence that walking alone does not have a positive effect in the
management of patients with low back pain compared with individual based exercise. Additionally there 2+
was poor quality evidence for treadmill walking as an effective management strategy.166
T’ai Chi, pilates and yoga
Pooled data from poor quality studies showed T’ai Chi has a small positive effect for reducing pain and
1++
improving disability in people with chronic arthritis. Duration of these effects was not reported.167
Pilates was superior to minimal intervention for reduction of pain in individuals with persistent non-specific
low back pain, but no more effective than other forms of exercise to reduce pain. In this instance the pilates 1++
component of the exercises that were used was not defined.168
Yoga can be a useful supplementary approach to treatment with moderate effect sizes on pain and associated +
1
disability. The yoga interventions used in and between trials included in the meta-analysis were not defined.169
Therapeutic Aquatic Exercise
Therapeutic aquatic exercise may be beneficial for patients with chronic low back pain.170
1+
Exercise therapy
A systematic review on the effectiveness of physical and rehabilitation interventions for patients with chronic
non-specific low back pain of more than 12 weeks duration comparing exercise therapy with usual care and 1++
advice to stay active showed a significant decrease in pain intensity and disability in favour of the exercise
therapy.135
26 |
7 • Physical therapies
Statistical pooling of three studies showed a significant decrease in pain intensity and disability in favour of
the exercise group (WMD -9.23, 95% CI -16.02 to -2.43 and -12.35, 95% CI -23.00 to -1.69, respectively). One
study found a statistically significant difference at intermediate (five-month) follow up in pain relief for the 1++
exercise group compared to the usual care group. Three studies reported on pain and/or disability at long term
follow up. The pooled WMD for pain was not statistically significant (-4.94, 95% CI -10.45 to 0.58); the WMD
for disability was statistically significant in favour of the exercise group (WMD -3.17, 95% CI -5.96 to -0.38).135
No difference in pain reduction and disability was found in short term results of poor quality studies comparing
exercise therapy with waiting list controls, but there was some evidence that it improved pain intensity and 1++
disability compared to usual care.135
7.2.2Advice
The addition of interventions based on CBT to physiotherapy programmes may be effective for people with ++
1
whiplash-associated disorder.171
A systematic review of advice for the management of chronic low back pain found strong evidence to
suggest that advice as an adjunct to exercise was more effective for improving pain, back specific function 1++
and work disability as opposed to advice alone. Advice in this sense was to stay active, along with specific
advice regarding exercise and/or functional activities.50
7.2.3exercise delivery
Supervised exercise was found to be more effective for improving weekly training frequency than
++
unsupervised exercise. Supplementing a home exercise programme with group exercise may increase overall 1
physical activity levels.171
Performance accuracy is improved by refresher sessions or by providing audiotapes or videotapes of 1++
exercises.171
A systematic review of therapeutic interventions for patients with whiplash-associated disorder, including
chronic whiplash of more than 12 weeks duration, indicated that an exercise programme was effective in 2+
relieving chronic whiplash-related pain in the short term although these gains were not maintained in the
long term. The relative effectiveness of different exercise regimens was not determined.172
7.2.4heterogeneity of exercise
One study identified on the effect of exercise on pain and disability in patients with CLBP aimed to explain
between-trial heterogeneity.173 When all types of exercise were analysed, small but significant reductions ++
1
in pain and disability were observed compared with minimal care or no treatment. Despite many possible
sources of heterogeneity in exercise trials, only the dosage (intensity, duration, amount) was significantly
associated with effect sizes.
7.2.5exercise adherence
A Cochrane review considering adherence to exercise in patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions
identified moderate quality evidence that:171
yy Individual specific exercises are more effective than generic group exercise for improving attendance
1++
at exercise classes.
yy Therapeutic programmes that specifically address adherence are effective in improving the frequency/
duration of exercise, and attendance at sessions.
yy Graded activity is effective in improving adherence to a home exercise programme.
yy Adding CBT-based approaches to physiotherapy programmes is not effective in improving exercise
adherence.
B
Exercise and exercise therapies, regardless of their form, are recommended in the management
of patients with chronic pain.
| 27
Management of chronic pain
A
Advice to stay active should be given in addition to exercise therapy for patients with chronic low
back pain to improve disability in the long term. Advice alone is insufficient.
B
The following approaches should be used to improve adherence to exercise:
yy supervised exercise sessions
yy individualised exercises in group settings
yy addition of supplementary material
yy provision of a combined group and home exercise programme.
7.3traction
There is strong evidence that there is no statistically significant difference in outcome between traction as
a single treatment against placebo, sham or no treatment for patients with acute, subacute or chronic low 1++
back pain with and without sciatica. The addition of continuous traction to standard physiotherapy practice
did not affect outcomes either.174
Conflicting evidence was found when comparing autotraction with placebo, sham or no treatment; other ++
1
forms of traction with other forms of treatment and different forms of traction compared to each other.174
7.4electrotherapy
Active transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatments have shown a positive analgesic ++
1
outcome in patients with chronic pain. Little difference was found between high and low frequencies.175
There is conflicting evidence about whether the use of TENS for chronic low back pain is beneficial in reducing 1+
pain intensity, but consistent evidence from two studies showed that it did not improve functional status.176,177 1++
There is low quality evidence that pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, repetitive magnetic stimulation ++
1
and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation are more effective than placebo in reducing neck pain.178
The use of TENS in patients with peripheral diabetic neuropathy reduces pain intensity.176
1+
Studies of low level laser therapy (LLLT) have shown statistically significant but clinically unimportant pain
relief compared to sham therapy for patients with sub-acute and chronic low back pain at short term and
++
intermediate term follow up (up to six months).179 In one study LLLT was more effective than sham at reducing 1
disability in the short term. LLLT or the addition of LLLT to exercise was not better than exercise alone, with
or without sham in reducing pain or disability in the short term.179
The relapse rate in the LLLT group was significantly lower than in the control group at the six-month follow ++
1
up. No side effects were reported.179
B
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation should be considered for the relief of chronic pain.
Either low or high frequency TENS can be used.
B
Low level laser therapy should be considered as a treatment option for patients with chronic low
back pain.
28 |
8 • Complementary therapies
8
Complementary therapies
8.1acupuncture
Systematic reviews have identified RCTs of varying quality which show a small clinically relevant benefit from
acupuncture for short term pain relief for patients with chronic knee pain, compared to sham and chronic
++
low back pain versus waiting list control or when added to another intervention.180,181 At six to twelve months 1+
1
follow up patients with knee pain were still reporting significant improvements in pain reduction, while
results were inconsistent for those with back pain.
Meta-analysis of acupuncture versus no acupuncture studies (with various end points) showed overall benefit
of acupuncture for pain relief and functional status in patients with back and neck pain (SD 0.55, 95% CI 0.51 1++
to 0.58) and osteoarthritis (SD 0.57, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.64).182
For patients with osteoarthritis pain, acupuncture showed improvement in pain relief compared to sham at
short term (SMD -0.28, 95% CI -0.45 to -0.11), and at six month follow up (SMD -0.10, 95% CI -0.21 to 0.01).
Compared to waiting list controls acupuncture demonstrated a clinically significant improvement in short 1++
+
term pain relief (SMD -0.96, 95% CI -1.19 to -0.72).183 An additional RCT of patients with osteoarthritis of the 1
knee or hip reported a significant difference at three months between acupuncture and routine care, (SF-36
bodily pain scores SD 50.7 ±23.5 compared to SD 36.3 ±18.3).184
Many studies used sham acupuncture, which may have a physiological effect, as a control which may result ++
1
in smaller effect sizes.183
A systematic review of acupuncture for patients with chronic non-bacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain
syndrome identified nine RCTs which suggested that acupuncture is effective as part of a multi-interventional 1++
approach. The findings are based on poor quality trials.185
Meta-analysis of five studies showed auricular acupuncture can be an effective treatment for various types
of pain or as an adjunct to other therapies (compared to sham, placebo or usual care, overall change in pain 1++
score SMD 1.84, 95% CI 0.60 to 3.07).186
No benefit was found for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and there was insufficient evidence to support ++
1
the use of acupuncture in patients with fibromyalgia.187
1+
1++
Acupuncture delivered by qualified practitioners is not associated with serious adverse events.182, 183, 187
A
Acupuncture should be considered for short term relief of pain in patients with chronic low back
pain or osteoarthritis.
8.2herbal medicine
A systematic review of the use of herbal medicines in patients with chronic low back pain found few studies and
those identified were small and of low quality. Two small RCTs found willow bark (salic alba) to have significant
1++
short term effects on pain relief but not recovery.181 In patients with osteoarthritis it was not found to be more
effective than placebo in one trial, while in another, 14% of patients reported reduction in pain compared to
2% on placebo.188
Limited evidence has shown the following interventions to be effective for patients with osteoarthritis.188
yy Four small RCTs reported improvement in pain with Indian frankincense.
yy Ginger was reported as being more effective than placebo, but not as effective as ibuprofen in three RCTs 1+
of short term and up to six months duration.
yy Three studies found devil’s claw to improve osteoarthritis related symptoms to similar levels to conventional
therapies. There is a risk of side effects and interaction with anticoagulants, NSAIDs, cardiovascular and
gastric acid drugs.
Two studies showed no benefit in the use of harpagophytum over placebo.181
1++
| 29
Management of chronic pain
No good quality studies were identified in a Cochrane review of Chinese herbal medicine for patients with
1++
chronic neck pain.189
8.3
other therapies
A Cochrane review of music therapy for all types of pain identified three studies of adults with chronic pain. ++
1
The trials were small, of poor quality and reported inconsistent results.190
Two RCTs of aromatherapy in patients with fibromyalgia showed no difference in efficacy between the treatment ++
1
and control groups.187
Results from trials of homeopathy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia were 1++
inconsistent.187
One RCT of patients with low back pain found no significant difference between those who received reflexology ++
1
and those who received group based relaxation or usual care.187
No good quality studies were identified to evaluate the efficacy of hypnotherapy or reiki.
30 |
9 • Dietary therapies
9
Dietary therapies
Few good quality RCTs are available on diet supplementation to treat patients with chronic pain symptoms.191 4
A Cochrane review looking at the impact of various types of diet, such as vegetarian, Mediterranean, and
elimination diets, on pain and functional status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis concluded that the 1++
studies identified were too small and not of sufficient quality to determine efficacy.192
A Cochrane review of vitamin D supplementation for patients with chronic pain identified four studies. Only
one of the studies reported a benefit in terms of reduction in analgesics used, but was considered to be 1++
methodologically poor.193
Dietary interventions were most effective when combined with deep breathing techniques and acupuncture.
+
The naturopathic approach was linked to improved quality of life, reduced body mass index and reduced back 1
pain (-6.89, 95% CI -9.23 to -3.54, p <0.0001) when compared to physiotherapy.194
Omega-3 fatty acid taken as a fish oil is effective in reducing joint pain.188
1+
Green lipped mussel extract was no better than placebo in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.188
1+
Limited evidence has shown the following interventions to be effective for patients with osteoarthritis:188
yy S -adenosylmethionine (SAMe). A systematic review and two RCTs reported that SAMe (400 mg, 600 mg or
1,200 mg per day) had similar effects on pain reduction and functional ability as treatment with NSAIDs for +
1
up to 12 weeks duration (effect size for pain 0.12; 95% CI, -0.029 to 0.273).
yy Bioflavinoids (pine bark extracts). One RCT (n=156) reported a reduction in pain in 56% of the treatment
group compared to 10% in the placebo group.
yy Rosehip. A systematic review found trials reporting that 5 g of rosehip showed a reduction in pain and in
painkiller use compared to placebo.
| 31
Management of chronic pain
10 Provision of information
This section reflects the issues likely to be of most concern to patients and their carers. These points are provided
for use by health professionals when discussing chronic pain with patients and carers and in guiding the
production of locally produced information materials.
10.1sources of further information
British Complementary Medicine Association
P.O. Box 5122, Bournemouth, BH8 0WG
Tel: 0845 345 5977
www.bcma.co.uk
A professional umbrella organisation which provides a ‘find a therapist’ service.
British Pain Society
Third Floor, Churchill House, 35 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4SG
Tel: 020 7269 7840
www.britishpainsociety.org  Email: [email protected]
A multidisciplinary professional organisation which aims to promote education, training, research and
development in all fields of pain. It endeavours to increase both professional and public awareness of the
prevalence of pain and the facilities that are available for its management. Provides pathways for patient
care. The website includes a list of UK based organisations that specialise in helping patients with specific
underlying conditions that cause chronic pain.
Chronic Pain Policy Coalition
Policy Connect, CAN Mezzanine, 32-36 Loman Street, Southwark, London, SE1 0EH
Tel: 020 7202 8580
www.policyconnect.org.uk/cppc  E-mail: [email protected]
A forum to unite patients, professionals and parliamentarians in a mission to develop an improved strategy
for the prevention, treatment and management of chronic pain and its associated conditions.
Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland
Venlaw Building, 349 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4AA
Tel: 0141 404 0231  Fax: 0141 246 0348
www.alliance-scotland.org.uk  E-mail: [email protected]
The national third sector health and social care intermediary. It brings together over 270 organisations to
ensure the voice of people and unpaid carers, and the expertise of the third sector, are influential in shaping
policy and practice.
Healthtalkonline Database
www.healthtalkonline.org
An online database of patient’s experiences and information on around 50 health conditions.
National Chronic Pain Website for Scotland
www.chronicpainscotland.org
A website which provides information, advice, education and resources for people with pain, for families
and carers as well as for healthcare professionals and Service Improvement Groups. It provides details of
specialist pain management services in Scottish NHS Boards and voluntary organisations.
32 |
10 • Provision of information
NHS Inform
www.nhsinform.co.uk
The national health information service.
Pain Association Scotland
Suite D, Moncrieffe Business Centre, Friarton Road, Perth, PH2 8DG
Tel: 0800 783 6059
www.painassociation.com  Email: [email protected]
An organisation which develops and delivers self management training for people with chronic pain,
addressing the non-medical issues, particularly the disabling effects of chronic pain which impact on people’s
lives. The focus is to introduce people to, and quickly build self-management skills, thereby creating practical,
positive change leading to an improved quality of life and well-being.
Pain Concern
Unit 1-3, 62-66 Newcraighall Road, Fort Kinnaird, Edinburgh, EH15 3HS
Tel: 0131 669 5951  Helpline: 0300 123 0789
www.painconcern.org.uk  Email: [email protected]
Facebook facebook.com/painconcern  Twitter @PainConcern
Pain Concern provides information and support to people with pain and their carers and aims to raise
awareness about pain and improve the provision of pain management services. Their Airing Pain radio
show is a series of audio podcasts featuring the experiences of those managing their everyday pain and
interviews with top, internationally recognised experts. Their magazine Pain Matters contains news, features
and comment on topics including self-management techniques, research into pain treatments and personal
experiences of living with pain. They run a helpline and an online community on HealthUnlocked which
provides members with a forum to share experiences.
Pain Support
www.painsupport.co.uk
Pain Support provides pain relief techniques for those with chronic pain. There is also a regular email
newsletter, a discussion forum and a contact club for making new friends, plus a shop for books,
relaxation CDs and downloads.
Pain UK
www.painuk.org
Pain UK aims to bring together pain charities in the UK to speak up about the common needs of the people
they represent. It aims to provide training and support to member charities, signpost support for people
living with pain and raise awareness for new forms of support, when needed.
10.1.1self management tools
Arthritis Care
www.arthritiscare.org.uk/LivingwithArthritis/Self-management
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/arthritis/interventions/self_manage.htm
Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP)
http://patienteducation.stanford.edu
Expert Patient Programme
www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Pages/expert-patients-programme.aspx
Pain Association Scotland
www.painassociation.com
Pain Tool Kit
www.paintoolkit.org
| 33
Management of chronic pain
10.2checklist for provision of information
This section gives examples of the information patients/carers may find helpful at the key stages of the
patient journey. The checklist was designed by members of the guideline development group based on their
experience and their understanding of the evidence base. The checklist is neither exhaustive nor exclusive.
Patient pathways can be found in Annexes 2 to 4.
Assessment
yy Explain the mechanism of pain and the benefits of a holistic approach to managing the pain.
yy E ncourage the patient to return within an agreed timescale if the initial planned treatment/s are not
having the desired effect, and explain that there are other treatments that may be more effective.
yy Provide information on self management and where to access resources suitable to the individual.
yy Give advice on exercise and encouragement to stay active.
Pharmacological management
yy G
ive advice on the treatment being given, the reasoning behind the treatment, the potential side
effects and periodically review the medicines prescribed.
Psychological therapies
yy E nsure the patient is aware that pain management programmes are a group based treatment to
improve quality of life.
Complementary therapies
yy A
dvise patients seeking therapies outwith the NHS to ensure the practitioner is a member of the
appropriate professional regulatory body.
yy A
dvise patients to inform their GP/healthcare professional of any complementary therapies or
supplements they may be taking.
34 |
11 • Implementing the guideline
11 Implementing the guideline
This section provides advice on the resource implications associated with implementing the key clinical
recommendations, and advice on audit as a tool to aid implementation.
11.1implementation strategy
Implementation of national clinical guidelines is the responsibility of each NHS Board and is an essential
part of clinical governance. Mechanisms should be in place to review care provided against the guideline
recommendations. The reasons for any differences should be assessed and addressed where appropriate.
Local arrangements should then be made to implement the national guideline in individual hospitals, units
and practices.
Implementation of this guideline will be encouraged by SIGN and actively supported by the Chronic Pain
Service Improvement Groups. The Scottish Government is supporting NHS boards to establish local Service
Improvement Groups in a two year development programme that aims to implement the Scottish service
model for chronic pain across Scotland (see Annex 5).
11.2resource implications of key recommendations
No recommendations were identified as having significant budgetary impact.
11.3
Auditing current practice
A first step in implementing a clinical practice guideline is to gain an understanding of current clinical
practice. Audit tools designed around guideline recommendations can assist in this process. Audit tools
should be comprehensive but not time consuming to use. Successful implementation and audit of guideline
recommendations requires good communication between staff and multidisciplinary team working.
The guideline development group has identified the following as key points to audit to assist with the
implementation of this guideline:
yy the number of patients presenting with chronic pain
yy the number of patients using analgesics to manage chronic pain who receive an annual review
yy the number of patients on strong opioids and gabapentinoids who receive an annual review of their
medications
yy the number of patients on >180 mg/day morphine or equivalent referred for specialist assessment
yy the number of patients referred for self management.
A core national dataset for audit for chronic pain services in Scotland is also available at www.
chronicpainscotland.org.
| 35
Management of chronic pain
11.4additional advice to nhsscotland from HEALTHCARE improvement scotland
and the scottish medicines consortium
yy C
apsaicin cutaneous patch is accepted for restricted use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for the
treatment of adults with post herpetic neuralgia who have not achieved adequate pain relief from, or
who have not tolerated, conventional first and second line treatments. Treatment should be under the
supervision of a specialist in pain management (February 2011).
yy Lidocaine 5% medicated plaster is accepted for restricted use within NHSScotland for the treatment of
patients with neuropathic pain associated with previous herpes zoster infection (postherpetic neuralgia). It
is restricted to use in patients who are intolerant of first line systemic therapies for postherpetic neuralgia
or where these therapies have been ineffective (August 2008).
yy Pregabalin is accepted for restricted use within NHSScotland for the treatment of peripheral neuropathic
pain in adults who have not achieved adequate pain relief from, or have not tolerated, conventional first
and second line treatments for peripheral neuropathic pain. Treatment should be stopped if the patient
has not shown sufficient benefit within eight weeks of reaching the maximally tolerated therapeutic
dose (May 2009). Pregabalin oral solution should be prescribed only for patients who find it difficult to,
or are unable, to swallow tablets (June 2012).
yy Duloxetine 30 mg and 60 mg is accepted for restricted use for the treatment of diabetic peripheral
neuropathic pain in adults (September 2006). Duloxetine is restricted to initiation by prescribers
experienced in the management of diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain as second or third line therapy.
36 |
12 • The evidence base
12 The evidence base
12.1systematic literature review
The evidence base for this guideline was synthesised in accordance with SIGN methodology. A systematic review
of the literature was carried out using an explicit search strategy devised by a SIGN Evidence and Information
Scientist. Databases searched include Medline, Embase, Cinahl, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library. The year
range covered was 2007-2012. Internet searches were carried out on various websites including the US National
Guidelines Clearinghouse. The main searches were supplemented by material identified by individual members
of the development group. Each of the selected papers was evaluated by two members of the group using
standard SIGN methodological checklists before conclusions were considered as evidence.
12.1.1literature search for patient issues
At the start of the guideline development process, a SIGN Evidence and Information Scientist conducted
a literature search for qualitative and quantitative studies that addressed patient issues of relevance to
management of patients with chronic pain. Databases searched include Medline, Embase, Cinahl and
PsycINFO, and the results were summarised and presented to the guideline development group.
12.2recommendations for research
The guideline development group was not able to identify sufficient evidence to answer all of the key questions
asked in this guideline (see Annex 1). The following areas for further research have been identified:
yy S tudies to examine the effect on treatment outcomes of assessing the type, severity and impact of chronic
pain using current validated instruments in primary care.
yy Studies to help identify, at the time of diagnosis, which patients are likely to have poorer outcomes and
whether referring them at an early stage improves outcomes and reduces harms.
yy Investigation of the efficacy of simple approaches to enhancing professional-patient interactions in
consultations in non-specialist settings to improve long term health outcomes in patients with chronic pain.
yy RCTs on the efficacy of paracetamol in patients with chronic low back pain.
yy A study into patterns of opioid prescribing and factors indicating good practice to consider how opioid
prescribing can be optimised.
yy RCTs on the long term effects of opioid use to measure efficacy and adverse events, including effects on
endocrine and immune function.
yy Studies into factors that contribute to the inter-individual variation in response to different treatments
(clinical, genetic, pharmacokinetic, neurobiological) and clinical biomarkers for predicting response to
treatments.
yy RCT on the efficacy of opioid rotation.
yy Studies on the development of predictive tools for risk of misuse of opioids.
yy Studies on whether the patient’s age has an impact on the use of opioids.
yy Investigation of strategies for combining drug therapies for optimal efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness.
yy RCTs on the efficacy of pain neurophysiology education.
yy RCTs on the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy.
yy Large RCTs on the use of acupuncture compared to standard care or other therapies in reducing pain and
improving quality of life. Researchers should ensure that the acupuncture is carried out by practitioners
who have received professional training. Sham acupuncture is not a suitable comparator.
yy Economic modelling into the cost effectiveness of an acupuncture service.
yy Studies into the use of music in combination with other non-pharmacological therapies in patients with
chronic pain to determine the outcomes of reduction in pain intensity, reduction in use of pharmacological
therapies, and cost effectiveness.
yy RCTs into the use of hypnosis for pain relief.
| 37
Management of chronic pain
yy Studies into the use of herbal medicines, such as harposogide, for pain relief.
yy Investigation into which specific dietary interventions may be beneficial to both specific (eg diabetic
neuropathic pain) and chronic pain conditions in general.
yy Studies into the effect of vitamins A, B6, C, E, omega-3 fatty acids, salts (Ca, Mg, Se, Zn, Fe) and lactic
ferments) in pain relief.
12.3review and updating
This guideline was published in 2013 and will be considered for review in three years. Any updates to the
guideline in the interim period will be noted on the SIGN website: www.sign.ac.uk
38 |
13 • Development of the guideline
13 Development of the guideline
13.1introduction
SIGN is a collaborative network of clinicians, other healthcare professionals and patient organisations and
is part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland. SIGN guidelines are developed by multidisciplinary groups of
practising healthcare professionals using a standard methodology based on a systematic review of the evidence.
Further details about SIGN and the guideline development methodology are contained in ‘SIGN 50: A Guideline
Developer’s Handbook’, available at www.sign.ac.uk
13.2the guideline development group
Dr Lesley Colvin
(Chair)
Consultant in Pain Medicine, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh
Dr Rachel Atherton
Clinical Psychologist, Chronic Pain Management Service, NHS Highland
Dr Jonathan Bannister
Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee
Ms Janette Barrie
Nurse Consultant for Long Term Conditions, NHS Lanarkshire
Dr Heather Cameron
Physiotherapy Professional Lead, Western Infirmary, Glasgow
Mr Paul Cameron
Clinical Lead Pain Specialist Physiotherapist, NHS Fife Integrated Pain Management Service
Dr Alan Carson
Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Royal Edinburgh Hospital
Dr Martin Dunbar
Consultant Clinical Psychologist, The Pain Management Team, Glasgow
Dr Steve Gilbert
Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline
Dr John Hardman
General Practitioner, Dalhousie Medical Practice, Bonnyrigg
Ms Melanie Hutchison
Advanced Occupational Therapist, NHS Fife Integrated Pain Management Service
Mr Malcolm Joss
Specialist Occupational Therapist, Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services, Rosyth
Professor Arduino Mangoni
Professor of Clincial Pharmacology, Flinders University, Australia
Mr Peter McCarron
Patient representative, Kelty
Mr Ronald Parsons
Patient representative, Leven
Miss Deborah Paton
Lead Pharmacist, Pain Management, Lynebank Hospital, Dunfermline
Ms Kathleen Powderly
Member of the British Acupuncture Council and Member of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, Aberdeen
Professor Stuart Ralston
Professor of Rheumatology, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh
Dr Mick Serpell
Consultant in Pain Medicine, Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow
Professor Blair H Smith
Professor of Population Science, University of Dundee
Mrs Lynne Smith
Evidence and Information Scientist, SIGN
Ms Ailsa Stein
Programme Manager, SIGN
Dr John Wilson
Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
The membership of the guideline development group was confirmed following consultation with the member
organisations of SIGN. All members of the guideline development group made declarations of interest which
are available in the Supporting Material section at www.sign.ac.uk.
| 39
Management of chronic pain
Guideline development and literature review expertise, support and facilitation were provided by the SIGN
Executive. All members of the SIGN Executive make yearly declarations of interest and further details of these
are available on request.
Mrs Lesley Forsyth
Events Coordinator
Mrs Karen Graham
Patient Involvement Officer
Miss Gemma Hardie
Distribution and Office Coordinator
Mr Stuart Neville Publications Designer
Miss Gaynor Rattray Guideline Coordinator
13.2.1acknowledgements
SIGN is grateful to the following people who have contributed to the development of the guideline.
Mr Mark Bovey
Coordinator, Acupuncture Research Resource Centre, British Acupuncture Council, London
Professor Andrew Moore
Deputy Editor, Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Group, Oxford
13.3consultation and peer review
13.3.1
National open meeting
A national open meeting is the main consultative phase of SIGN guideline development, at which the guideline
development group presents its draft recommendations for the first time. The national open meeting for this
guideline was held on 12 December 2012 and was attended by 226 representatives of all the key specialties
relevant to the guideline. The draft guideline was also available on the SIGN website for a limited period at this
stage to allow those unable to attend the meeting to contribute to the development of the guideline.
13.3.2specialist reviewers invited to comment on this draft
This guideline was also reviewed in draft form by the following independent expert referees, who were asked to
comment primarily on the comprehensiveness and accuracy of interpretation of the evidence base supporting
the recommendations in the guideline. The guideline group addresses every comment made by an external
reviewer, and must justify any disagreement with the reviewers’ comments. All expert referees made declarations
of interest and further details of these are available on request from the SIGN Executive.
SIGN is very grateful to all of these experts for their contribution to the guideline.
40 |
The Association of British Neurologists, London
Dr David Carroll
Associate Specialist in Palliative Care and GP Locum, Aberdeen
Mr David Falconer
Director, Pain Association Scotland, Perth
Dr Jonathan Hill
Research Physiotherapist, Keele University
Mr Simon Land
Royal College of Physicians, London
Mrs Kirsty MacFarlane
Prinicipal Pharmacist, Scottish Medicines Consortium, Glasgow
Dr Hugh MacPherson
Senior Research Fellow in Health Sciences, University of York
Professor Chris Main
Professor of Clinical Psychology (Pain Management), Keele University
Ms Cecilia McQuade
Patient representative, Glasgow
Dr Barry Miller
Consultant in Pain Medicine, Royal Bolton Hospital
Professor Steve Morley
Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Leeds
Mr Paulos Quadros
Chief Executive, Intlifepain, Strathaven
Ms Judith Rafferty
Lead Advanced Nurse Specialist Pain Management, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee 13 • Development of the guideline
Mr Ian Semmons
Chairman, Action on Pain, Norfolk
Mrs Heather Wallace
Chairman, Pain Concern, Haddington
Dr David Watson
General Practitioner, Hamilton Medical Group, Aberdeen
Dr Mike Winter
Medical Director, National Services Division, NHSScotland
13.3.3sign editorial group
As a final quality control check, the guideline is reviewed by an editorial group comprising the relevant specialty
representatives on SIGN Council to ensure that the specialist reviewers’ comments have been addressed
adequately and that any risk of bias in the guideline development process as a whole has been minimised. The
editorial group for this guideline was as follows. All members of the SIGN Editorial group make yearly declarations
of interest and further details of these are available on request from the SIGN Executive.
Dr Jenny Bennison
Royal College of General Practitioners
Professor Keith Brown
Chair of SIGN; Co-Editor
Dr Roberta James
SIGN Programme Lead; Co-Editor
Dr Rajan Madhok
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Ms Fiona McMillan
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Professor Mark Strachan
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Dr Sara Twaddle
Director of SIGN; Co-Editor
| 41
Management of chronic pain
Abbreviations
42 |
ACT
acceptance and commitment therapy
BNF
British National Formulary
BPI
Brief Pain Inventory
BT
behavioural therapy
CBT
cognitive behavioural therapy
CI
confidence interval
CLBP
chronic low back pain
COMM
Current Opioid Misuse Measure
COX
cyclo-oxygenase
CT
cognitive therapy
CYPD
cytochrome P450 2D6
EMG
electromyographic
GI
gastrointestinal
GMC
General Medical Council
GP
general practitioner
GRIPS
Getting Relevant Information on Pain Services in Scotland
GTN
glyceryl trinitrate
HIV
human immunodeficiency virus
HRQOL
health-related quality of life
IMMPACT
Initiative on Methods, Measurement and Pain Assessment in Clinical Trials
LLLT
low level laser therapy
LOCF
last-observation-carried-forward
LSMD
least squared mean difference
MA
marketing authorisation
MBI
mindfulness based interventions
MBSR
mindfulness based stress reduction
MOR
mu opioid receptor
MPI
Multidimensional Pain Inventory
MT
manual therapy
MTA
multiple technology appraisal
NICE
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
NLR
negative likelihood ratio
NNT
number needed to treat
NSAID
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
OA
osteoarthritis
OR
odds ratio
Abbreviations
ORT
Opioid Risk Tool
PGIC
Patient’s Global Impression of Change
PHN
postherpetic neuralgia
PLR
positive likelihood ratio
PMP
pain management programme
PNE
pain neurophysiology education
QoL
quality of life
RCT
randomised controlled trial
RMDQ
Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire
RR
relative risk
SAMe
S-adenosylmethionine
SD standard deviation
SF-36
short-form with 36 questions
SIGN
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network
SMC
Scottish Medicines Consortium
SMD
standardised mean difference
SMT
spinal manipulation therapy
SNRI
serotonin norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor
SOAPP
Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain
SPC
summary of product characteristics
SRT
self regulatory treatment
SSRI
selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor
TCA
tricyclic antidepressant
TENS
transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
VAS
visual analogue scale
WMD
weighted mean difference
| 43
Management of chronic pain
Annex 1
Key questions
This guideline is based on a series of structured key questions that define the target population, the
intervention, diagnostic test, or exposure under investigation, the comparison(s) used and the outcomes used
to measure efficacy, effectiveness, or risk. These questions form the basis of the systematic literature search.
Key question
See guideline
section
1. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain presenting in a non-specialist setting, does the use
of assessment tools lead to improvement in any of the core outcomes of treatment compared
with not using assessment tools?
3.1
Outcomes: pain scores (30% reduction and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality of life (mood,
sleep), adverse events
2. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain being managed by any intervention is there any
evidence that timing of that intervention impacts on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life (mood, sleep), adverse events?
3.2
3. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain is there any evidence to show that a managed care
approach can improve pain scores (30% reduction and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality
of life (mood, sleep), adverse events?
3.3
Consider: managed care (ie coding chronic pain, call and recall systems, structured protocol-driven
care delivered by nurses or clinicians with a special interest, with active management and regular
reviews of pharmacological treatments, considering when to refer)
4. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain is there any evidence that the nature of interaction
with healthcare professionals affects pain scores (30% reduction and 50% reduction), functional
ability, quality of life (mood, sleep), adverse events?
3.4
Consider: communication, empathy, relationship
5. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain are opioids effective compared with placebo or
other interventions in pain scores (30% reduction and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality
of life, adverse events/drug reactions, dependency (physiological or psychological)?
5.3, 5.6
Interventions: morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, buprenorphine, fentanyl, methadone,
meptazinol, tapentadol, targinact, codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, cocodamol and codydramol
Exclude: parenteral and neuraxial administration
6. Are there benefits and harms associated with high dose opioid versus low dose opioid use in
patients with chronic non-malignant pain?
5.3
Consider: efficacy, pain potentiation, addiction, adverse drug reactions
7. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain what are the most effective simple analgesics
compared with placebo or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events/drug reactions, dependency
(physiological or psychological)?
Interventions:
a. NSAIDs, COX inhibitors, COX-2s
b. paracetamol
c. nefopam
44 |
5.2
Annex 1
5.4, 5.6
8. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of anti-epilepsy drugs
compared with placebo or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse drug reactions, dependency (physiological or
psychological)?
Interventions:
a. gabapentin
b. pregabalin
c. sodium valproate
d. carbamazepine/ oxcarbazepine
e. topiramate
f. lamotrigine
g. lacosamide
h. levetiracetam
9. In patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of topical analgesics
compared with placebo or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events/drug reactions, dependency
(physiological or psychological)?
5.2
Interventions:
a. lidocaine patch
b. capsaicin cream
c. capsaicin patch
d. topical non-steroidals
10. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of antidepressants
compared with placebo or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events/drug reactions, dependency
(physiological or psychological)?
5.5
Interventions:
a. tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyliine, clomipramine, imipramine)
b. SSRIs( fluoxetine, citalopram)
c. SNRIs ( duloxetine, mirtazapine, venlafaxine)
11. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of combination
pharmacological compared to single pharmacological therapies on pain scores (pain 30%
reduction and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events/drug reactions,
dependency (physiological or psychological)?
5.6
12. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of physical therapies
compared with no physical therapy or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and
50% reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events?
7
Interventions: manual therapy, exercise, massage, traction, electrotherapy
| 45
Management of chronic pain
13. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of complementary and
alternative therapies compared with no treatment or other interventions on pain scores (30%
reduction and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events?
8
Interventions:
a. aromatherapy
b. music therapy
c. acupuncture
d. reflexology
e. reiki
f. hypnotherapy
g. homeopathy
h. herbal medicine
14. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of expert/clinician guided 6
self help management advice/ programmes/ psychological treatments compared with no
treatment or other interventions on pain scores, functional ability, mood, QoL and adverse
events.
Interventions:
a. multidisciplinary pain management programmes basedon biopsychosocial principles
b. unidisciplinary education (excluding exercise)
c. first wave psychological treatments: behavioural therapies
(i) respondent behavioural therapies (1) biofeedback (2) relaxation
(ii) operant behavioural therapies
d. second wave psychological treatments: cognitive behavioural therapy
e. third wave psychological treatments: acceptance and commitment
therapy and mindfulness based interventions
Consider: unidisciplinary versus multidisciplinary programmes, mode of delivery, as above;
intensity; who delivers intervention
15. I n patients with non-malignant chronic pain what is the effectiveness of patient and lay self
help advice compared with no treatment or other interventions on pain scores (30% reduction
and 50% reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events?
Interventions:
a. bibliotherapy
b. computer-guided self help
c. structured or guided self help
d. self help groups versus one-to-one interventions
e. shorter, structured, educational classes
Consider: intensity of programmes, mode of delivery (ie is telephone/video contact as effective as
face-to-face)
46 |
4
Annex 1
16. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain is there any evidence for the effectiveness of
dietary interventions compared with usual care on pain scores (30% reduction and 50%
reduction), functional ability, quality of life, adverse events?
9
Interventions:
a. vitamins (B, C, D)
b. omega-3
c. antioxidants
d. glucosamine
e. chondroitin
f. dietary/nutritional supplements or replacements
17. I n patients with chronic non-malignant pain what is the effectiveness of occupational based
interventions on pain scores (30% reduction and 50% reduction), functional performance,
physical capacity, engagement in personally meaningful occupations, return to work rates,
quality of life, adverse events?
No evidence
identified
Interventions:
a. analysis of activity/occupational performance
b. purposeful activity as a treatment modality
c. pacing education
d. energy conservation advice
e. establishment of daily routines to improve health and well-being
f. environmental assessment
g. adaptations/equipment provision
h. work/vocational assessments
Consider: Increased independence in activities of daily living, rehabilitative approaches,
participation in occupation, compensatory techniques, occupational performance (self care/work/
leisure), return to employment/vocational rehabilitation
| 47
Management of chronic pain
Annex 2
Pathway for chronic pain assessment, early management and care planning
in non-specialist settings
This pathway is drawn from evidence identified in the guideline, information extrapolated in the research for the guideline and
the clinical experience and consensus of the guideline development group. More detailed pathways on pain assessment and
management are available from the British Pain Society.195
Chronic pain management should focus on non-pharmacological strategies just as much as the use of analgesic drugs. The
prescription of medication is the most convenient element of care but is potentially the most harmful and sometimes the least
effective.
Step 1
Initial
assessment
Divide assessment and initial management over multiple consultations
Investing time at the initial presentation may improve outcomes for patients and minimise unhelpful use of
resources in future.
Use a patient-centred, culturally sensitive approach
• Explain the treatment options.
• Encourage patients’ involvement in decision making.
Consider red flags
• Consider serious pathology and investigate and refer if necessary.
• Avoid further investigations unless serious pathology is suspected.
• Identify the stage at which no more investigations are planned and explain this clearly to the patient.
Identify the duration of pain
• Make a clear diagnosis of chronic pain where appropriate.
Pain that has been present for more than 12 weeks.
• Record the diagnosis and code it electronically in the patient record.
Identify if there may be an element of neuropathic pain
Typical features: character of pain (burning, shooting), allodynia (pain due to a stimulus that does not
normally provoke pain), hyperalgesia (exaggerated response to a painful stimulus) unpredictable pain, other
abnormal sensations, sensory abnormalities and/or skin changes on clinical examination; symptoms and signs
neuroanatomocally consistent with underlying cause.
Brief validated tools are available to aid diagnosis (eg LANSS, DN4, painDETECT)196 but there is insufficient
evidence to support a recommendation for their routine use.
Assess the severity of pain at different sites
• Use a narrative clinical history to clarify the complexity and intensity of pain.
• Consider using a visual analogue scale or numerical score to help gauge the response to treatment.
Assess functional impact as part of a bio-psychosocial assessment
• Consider work, relationships, sleep, mood, disability etc.
The depth of the assessment will depend on the severity of the problem and it may be completed over multiple
consultations.
Identify patients at increased risk of poor outcomes
• Use clinical judgement.
• Consider the use of evidence based tools (eg Keele STarT Back Tool).
• Be aware of the presence of significant comorbidities.
Mental health problems (including depression, anxiety, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder),
cognitive impairment, substance misuse, pregnancy, polypharmacy, significant renal or hepatic impairment
• Be aware of the presence of yellow flags.
48 |
Biomedical
yellow flags
Severe pain or increased disability at presentation, previous significant pain episodes, multiple
site pain, non-organic signs, iatrogenic factors.
Psychological
yellow flags
Belief that pain indicates harm, an expectation that passive rather than active treatments are most
helpful, fear avoidance behaviour, catastrophic thinking, poor problem solving ability, passive
coping strategies, atypical health beliefs, psychosomatic perceptions, high levels of distress.
Social
yellow flags
Low expectation of return to work, lack of confidence in performing work activities, heavier work,
low levels of control over rate of work, poor work relationships, social dysfunction, medico-legal
issues.
Annex 2
Step 2
Interventions
Listen, validate, educate, reassure
• Acknowledge that pain may never entirely resolve.
Encourage a self management approach (see section 4).
Signposting patients to self management resources should be considered at any stage of their treatment.
The healthcare professional needs to consider which approaches will suit each patient and signpost
them appropriately (see section 10.1). Involve an advocate or carer where possible and relevant, to help
understanding and motivate for change.
Advise the patient to stay active
• Consider referral for:
{{exercise therapy where available (see section 7.2)
{{manual therapy (eg physiotherapy, TENS; see sections 7.1, 7.4), or
{{acupuncture where available (see section 8.1).
Support the patient to stay at work
• Consider occupational health referral and benefits advice.
Treat the underlying cause of pain where possible
• Encourage appropriate use of over-the-counter analgesics (see section 5.2).
• Be aware that treatment of moderate or severe depression (where present) may reduce pain (see section
5.5.4).
Step 3
Additional
interventions
Conduct a more comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment, where possible, for patients at increased
risk of poor outcomes
Biomedical
assessment
Thorough pain history assessing each discrete pain experienced by the patient (site, character,
intensity, onset, precipitants, duration, intensity, exacerbating and relieving factors, night pain,
perceived cause), systemic symptoms, past medical history, physical examination (including
behavioural response to examination); previous investigations (and patient’s understanding);
previous and current treatment (including response, specialist treatments, side effects,
misconceptions, fixed beliefs, messages from other health professionals).
Psychological
assessment
Consider low mood, anxiety or depression; psychiatric history, alcohol and illicit drug use, misuse,
dependence or addiction, history of physical or sexual abuse; identify yellow flags (see above),
loss of confidence, poor motivation, reluctance to modify lifestyle, unrealistic expectations of self
and others.
Social
assessment
Ability to self care, occupational performance, influence of family on pain behaviour,
dissatisfaction at work, secondary gain (family overprotection, benefits, medico-legal
compensation).
Agree a pain management plan
eg verbal agreement of a single goal, and how to achieve it, or a self directed written plan.
• C
onsider early referral to secondary care where pain is severe, not responding adequately to
management, or for specific specialist assessment and/or treatments.
| 49
Management of chronic pain
Step 4
Analgesic
drugs
Before prescribing analgesic drugs
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Offer non-pharmacological strategies in addition to, or as alternative to, analgesic drugs.
Agree the goals of therapy eg reduction in pain, improved mood, improved function.
Agree the length of the initial trial.
Discuss the potential side effects of all drugs prescribed.
Discuss the significant risks of specific drugs, especially NSAIDs and opioids.
Discuss the short term benefits and potential loss of efficacy over time before prescribing opioids.
Avoid co-prescription of sedative and hypnotic medication where possible and be aware of concomitant
alcohol use.
• Be aware of concomitant use of over-the-counter treatments, and advise accordingly.
For patients who continue to have poorly controlled pain
•
•
•
•
•
Schedule review appointments rather than allowing them to be dictated by pain levels.
Plan management of exacerbations.
Consider trialling two or three other drugs from the same class if the first is ineffective.
Down-titrate or withdraw ineffective treatments.
Consider rational multimodal analgesia: avoid coprescription of drugs from within the same class,
consider the safety and logic of the prescribing regimen when combining drug treatments.
After commencing drug treatment
• I ncrease to the recommended starting dose then titrate against response where appropriate, up to the
recommended maximum dose, unless limited by side effects.
• Review the efficacy of all drugs after an initial trial at the optimum dose, usually after two weeks (up to
four weeks for antidepressants), using the narrative clinical history, a visual analogue scale or numerical
scores.
Most individuals respond in one of two ways: either a good response (at least 30% improvement) or no
response.
Choice of drug
• Use the WHO ladder pragmatically and do not continue prescribing drugs that are ineffective.
• If neuropathic pain appears to be present follow the pathway for patients with neuropathic pain
(see Annex 3).
Choice of individual drug or combination will be influenced by:
-- severity of pain
-- presence of neuropathic pain
-- comorbidity and coprescribing
-- risk of drug misuse
-- previous drug efficacy
-- previous adverse effects
-- interactions with other prescribed medication
-- clinician experience.
• Use as first line:
{{paracetamol (see section 5.2)
{{NSAIDs (see section 5.2)
• Also consider:
{{weak opioids (see section 5.3)
{{topical NSAIDs (see section 5.2)
{{topical rubefacients (see section 5.2.7).
• If pain still not controlled:
{{reconsider non-pharmacological strategies (see sections 6,7 and 8)
{{refer to the pathway for using strong opioids (see Annex 4).
50 |
Annex 2
Step 5
Referral
Consider onward referral
• To psychologically based therapies (includes CBT, behavioural therapies, mindfulness meditation,
acceptance and commitment therapy); (see section 6) when the patient:
{{has moderate to high levels of distress
{{has difficulty adjusting to a life with pain
{{is struggling to change their behaviour to maintain normal activities.
For patients with pre-existing emotional problems, discuss any proposed referral with their current care
provider or with the team who will be providing the new therapy. The discussion should review the outcomes of
previous therapeutic interventions and consider whether the patient is likely to benefit.
Selection of a particular therapeutic approach is likely to be determined by local availability, but consider the
patients’ preferences where a choice is available.
• To specialist pain service if:
{{there is treatment failure after trial of four drugs for neuropathic pain
{{the opioid dose is greater than 180 mg morphine per day or equivalent
{{there is an inadequate response to non-specialist management.
• To a multidisciplinary pain management programme (see section 6.1) when the patient has:
{{poor functional capacity
{{moderate to high levels of distress
{{social and occupational problems related to pain
{{failed to benefit from other, less comprehensive therapies
{{a preference for a self management rather than a medical approach.
Delaying referral until other treatment avenues are exhausted can be dispiriting and unhelpful. Ensure
that patients are aware that PMP will be a group based treatment focused on improving quality of life and
participation in normal activities. It is also important that the patient understands the likely composition of the
PMP team.
Step 6
Review
Initial review
• Once stability is achieved an initial review should take place no more than six months later.
Subsequent reviews
• Subsequent reviews should be at least annual.
• At each review re-assess medication concordance and efficacy, adverse effects, alcohol and illicit drug use,
mood, function and review the management plan if appropriate.
• Consider using a recall system to facilitate annual reviews.
Step 7
Re-assessment
Exacerbations • Consider re-assessment for new or worsening pathology and the possible need for further investigation.
• Plan for the use of non-pharmacological strategies.
• Avoid the use of short-acting strong opioids.
Routine use during exacerbations may increase tolerance and may lead to dose escalation.
• Down-titrate analgesics between exacerbations.
Reassurance
• Reassure the patient that exacerbations are common, are not necessarily indicative of a worsening of their
underlying condition and are likely to settle quickly.
Reviewing previous episodes may be helpful.
• Reassure the patient that it is safe to maintain normal activities of daily living at a moderate level.
• Discourage patients from resting excessively during an exacerbation.
| 51
Management of chronic pain
Annex 3
Pathway for patients with neuropathic pain
This pathway is drawn from evidence identified in the guideline, information extrapolated in the research for the guideline and
the clinical experience and consensus of the guideline development group. More detailed pathways on pain assessment and
management are available from the British Pain Society.195
Step 1
Diagnosis
•• Make a clinical diagnosis based on history, signs and symptoms
•• Screening questionnaires can be used to aid the process (see Annex 2 for pathway on assessment
and early management of chronic pain)
Diagnosis of neuropathic pain is a clinical diagnosis but may be aided by one of the various available
questionnaires.
Common causes are postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic peripheral neuropathy but there are many
other causes including post-surgical nerve dysfunction, cancer, trigeminal neuralgia, HIV, post
amputation pain, multiple sclerosis etc.
Once a diagnosis is made, then it is usual to start an initial systemic drug. Review should be frequent to
optimise drug dosage and to improve tolerability. Drugs that are having little useful effect after a dose
titration should be stopped and an alternative tried.
Step 2
Initial agents
•• Amitriptyline
•• Gabapentin
The drug to use first depends mainly on clinical preference. There is no strong evidence to choose
one over the other. Prescriber preference, experience and patient factors should all be considered.
If the first agent chosen is not helpful, then an alternative may be used either as a sole agent or in
combination.
In clinical practice the usual step one systemic drug is a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline
or a gabapentinoid.
Amitriptyline (see section 5.5)
The suggested efficacious dose range for amitriptyline is 25-125 mg. In many patients it may be
beneficial to start with only 10 mg and titrate upwards. The dose should be increased by 10 mg per
week until either efficacy is achieved or the patient cannot tolerate the drug. Dosages higher than 125
mg are sometimes used in clinical practice but evidence for these doses is lacking.
Amitriptyline, in common with the other TCAs, has a number of side effects. One of the common
reasons for discontinuation is excessive drowsiness.
Gabapentinoids (see section 5.4)
Gabapentin is normally the gabapentinoid of choice. It is usually started at 300 mg at night and
titrated upwards (increasing by 300 mg per week is suggested). Evidence suggests that a minimum
of 1,200 mg is needed. Doses may need to be increased as high as 3,600 mg. This is consistent with
published clinical trials.
Pregabalin (see section 5.4.2)
Pregabalin is an alternative in patients who have have found no benefit from or not tolerated
amitriptyline or gabapentin. It is usually started at a dose of 75 mg twice daily. In some patients
smaller starting doses may be used but doses of 150 mg daily are generally ineffective. The drug may
be titrated up until a maximal dose of 300 mg twice daily is reached. The dose should be titrated
according to effect and with the side effects in mind as a flexible dosing has been shown to be
better. Common side effects are somnolence and dizziness. (The SMC recommends that pregabalin is
reserved for patients who have not tolerated or who have failed on a conventional first or second line
agent, for example a TCA or gabapentin; see section 11.4).
52 |
Annex 3
Step 3
Alternative agents
•• Alternative tricyclic antidepressants
•• SNRI antidepressants
Alternative systemic drugs (see section 5.6)
If initial agents do not help it is appropriate to change to an alternative agent, either as a sole agent
or in combination with one or more drugs known to be effective in neuropathic pain, such as a
gabapentinoid (or opioid in appropriate cases). Generally two types of antidepressant are not given
together unless one is in low dose (eg amitriptyline 25 mg) or on specialist advice.
Alternative TCAs (see section 5.5.1)
If amitriptyline does not produce effective results, then an alternative TCA such as impramine or
nortriptyline may be used. These may be less sedating and better tolerated but are not any more
efficacious. Dosages are normally in the range of 25-75 mg daily.
SNRI antidepressants (see section 5.5.2)
Duloxetine is the SNRI most commonly used for neuropathic pain. The recommended dose of
duloxetine is 60 mg per day in a single dose (doses up to 120 mg have been used).
Alternative anti-epilepsy drugs (see sections 5.4.3 and 5.4.4)
Although many anti-epilepsy drugs have been used in the treatment of neuropathic pain, apart
from carbamazepine, there is little evidence to support their use. Carbamazepine should be used as
a first line agent in patients with trigeminal neuralgia. It may also be used in patients with general
neuropathic pain. In both cases the initial dose should be 100-200 mg daily increasing slowly in
increments of 100-200 mg biweekly. Doses up to 1,600 mg daily have been used.
Step 4
Topical agents
•• Topical lidocaine plasters
In patients with localised neuropathic pain it may be appropriate to use a topically acting agent (see
sections 5.2.4 to 5.2.7).
Topical lidocaine plasters (see section 5.2.6)
Topical lidocaine plasters are the topical agent of choice (in the non-specialist setting) in patients who
prefer a topical treatment. Up to three plasters can be used at a time. These are worn 12 hours on and
12 hours off. There are few side effects apart from some skin reddening and irritation. If there is no
improvement after four weeks, then they should be discontinued.
Low dose topical capsaicin
There is no good evidence for the use of low dose topical capsaicin (see section 5.2.5; see Step 6
regarding high dose capsaicin patch).
Step 5
Opioids
•• Opioids
Opioids (see section 5.3)
•• Use only in carefully selected and screened patients
•• Use long acting preparations only. Avoid breakthrough dosing
•• Prescribe no higher than 180 mg morphine (or equivalent) without specialist advice
•• Discontinue if not effective
•• Follow the pathway for using strong opioids (see Annex 4).
Step 6
Specialist referral
•• Tertiary drugs (capsaicin 8% patch, ketamine)
•• Specialised interventions
•• Multidisciplinary assessment with appropriate psychological therapies
Patients with refractory pain (pain unresponsive after four or more conventional drug therapies) or
patients failing on opioids should be referred for specialist advice. Tertiary options include the use of
capsaicin 8% patch (see section 5.2.5), interventional procedures, drugs such as ketamine and a robust
multidisciplinary approach which includes appropriate psychological therapies.
| 53
Management of chronic pain
Annex 4
Pathway for using strong opioids in patients with chronic pain
This pathway is drawn from evidence identified in the guideline, information extrapolated in the research for the guideline and
the clinical experience and consensus of the guideline development group. More detailed pathways on pain assessment and
management are available from the British Pain Society.195
Strong opioids should only be considered after a full assessment and as part of a wider management plan, rather than as sole
agents. Prescribers should have knowledge of opioid pharmacology and be competent and experienced in the use of strong
opioids.
Step 1
Assess pain
• Likely to respond to opioid, eg nociceptive; some benefit from weak opioids, consider opioid trial.
Assessing
suitability for • L ess likely to respond to opioid, eg neuropathic; no analgesia at all from weak opioids, consider specialist
advice before opioid trial OR avoid opioids.
strong opioid
Assess patient for
• Relevant psychosocial factors:
{{
children in house
{{
other family members with a history of substance misuse problems.
• Increased risk of misuse or developing iatrogenic dependency:
{{
history of heroin abuse
{{
history of alcohol abuse
{{
history of stimulant use
{{
mental health problems.
• Other comorbidities:
{{
cognitive impairment; cognitive side effects are more likely; concordance and safety may be an issue
{{
renal impairment; accumulation of active metabolites with some opioids
{{
gastrointestinal pathology; adverse effect on bowel function.
• Other analgesics; use simple analgesics, topical therapies and anti-neuropathic agents (if appropriate) for
opioid sparing effect.
Discuss the plan with the patient before starting opioids
• Provide information leaflets (eg SIGN patient leaflet, British Pain Society patient leaflet).
• Establish goals of treatment:
{{
primary: pain relief (define the degree that would be acceptable to the patient)
{{
secondary: improved function, sleep, mood.
Be aware that opioids should NOT be used as anxiolytics.
• Discuss the side effects/potential problems. The patient needs to be aware of the potential side effects and
they need to be acceptable to the patient, eg:
{{
GI dysfunction; nausea, vomiting, constipation
{{
central nervous system; memory and cognitive impairment, nightmares, hallucinations, visual
disturbance
{{
endocrine; fertility, sexual function
{{
immune function
{{
misuse potential
{{
tolerance
{{
opioid-induced hyperalgesia
54 |
Annex 4
Step 1
Define and discuss how the trial will work
• Set a timescale; discuss the expected duration of trial, frequency of review.
Assessing
suitability for • Set a dose; including upper dose limit; aim for lowest effective dose.
strong opioid • Agree stopping rules with the patient before starting:
{{
if treatment goals are not met
{{
if there is no clear evidence of dose response
{{
if rapid tolerance develops necessitating high dose opioids. In this situation proceed to reduction and
cessation, or consider specialist referral/advice.
• Consider opioid rotation if the pain is opioid responsive but efficacy and dose titration is limited by side
effects.
The suggested dose conversion ratios table (see box 2) is for guidance only and should be used with caution.
If the patient is on a high dose before conversion consider phased conversion to avoid withdrawal. Short
acting opioids may need to be used during conversion until the correct dose is established.
Step 2
Factors to consider
• Route of administration; oral or transdermal are the main routes for chronic non-malignant pain.
Starting a
strong opioid • Choice of opioid (see boxes 1 and 2 on choice of opioid and suggested dose conversion ratios).
• Dose; there is considerable variability in the dose needed to effectively treat pain. Careful titration to the
lowest effective dose, balanced against side effects requires regular review.
There are two potential options for starting strong opioids:
• Start with low dose of long-acting preparation. If the patient is already on cocodamol or dihydrocodeine,
then they are not opioid naive, particularly if they are on the maximum dose or more than one of these
agents.
OR
• While establishing dose, use an immediate release preparation for short term use, only to determine
approximate dose range, then convert to equivalent long-acting preparation as soon as possible. This may
be more appropriate if the patient has multiple comorbidities.
Aim to establish the patient on long-acting opioid with no immediate release opioid if the chronic pain is
stable. For patients with mild ‘breakthrough pain’ consider non-opioids (eg paracetamol, NSAIDs) or weak
opioid.
Step 3
Monitor adverse effects
Monitoring
opioid trial
• Gastrointestinal:
{{
nausea/vomiting; tolerance usually develops. Consider use of an antiemetic at initiation of therapy. Due
to the abuse potential of cyclizine, avoid if possible.
{{
constipation: tolerance often does not develop to this. Use stool softeners/stimulant laxatives or a
combination. Consider opioid preparations less likely to cause GI effects.
• Central nervous system:
If these do not resolve, then either dose reduction or rotation will be needed.
{{
impaired memory, concentration
{{
hallucinations, milder visual disturbance
{{
sedation, confusion, cognitive impairment
{{
myoclonic jerks.
• Other:
{{
sweating
{{
reduced libido, fertility; consider stopping, testosterone replacement, possible opioid rotation; may
need endocrine review
{{
respiratory depression; stop opioid until resolves; consider factors contributing to event
{{
tolerance; rotate opioid or reduce and stop
{{
opioid induced hyperalgesia - rotate opioid or reduce and stop; seek specialist advice.
| 55
Management of chronic pain
Step 3
Assess pain relief
Monitoring
opioid trial
• If there is good pain relief on a stable dose of opioid without unacceptable side effects continue with at
least annual review.
• If pain relief is inadequate due to:
{{
dose titration not being possible due to adverse effects, try opioid rotation
{{
no/minimal evidence of opioid responsiveness, reduce and stop opioid
{{
intolerable side effects, try opioid rotation. Short-acting opioids may need to be used during the
conversion both to reduce physical withdrawal and while optimum dose is being established. If the
patient is on a large dose of opioid, consider phased conversion (eg reduce the current opioid dose by
50% and introduce the new opioid dose at less than the morphine equivalent dose replacement dose
(because of incomplete cross-reactivity). Continue with reduction of the old opioid and increase in new
opioid as indicated by response.
At all times before and during opioid treatment signs of iatrogenic substance misuse should be sought and if
problems arise, then consider early specialist advice/referral.
Step 4
Regular review, ideally with one prescriber:
Continuing
opioid
therapy
• At least annual, more frequently if problems arise.
• Have a clear plan for flare-up management (including availability to out of hours service).
Box 1: Choice of opioid
OPIOID
ROUTE
COMMENTS
Morphine
Oral
Most commonly used; very variable bioavailability (15 - 65%), no evidence that it is
better than other opioid; active metabolites can accumulate in renal impairment,
some may cause hyperalgesia.
Tramadol
Oral
weak MOR agonist (~1/6000th that of morphine) with additional effects on
noradrenergic and serotonergic systems. Metabolism is via the CYPD, with one of the
active metabolites: O-desmethyltramadol having considerably more potency at the
MOR.
Oxycodone
Oral
More reliable bioavailability than morphine (60 - 87%); metabolism involves CYPD.
Fentanyl
Transdermal
Useful if problems with oral administration.
Buprenorphine
Transdermal
Useful if problems with oral administration; minimal active metabolite accumulation
in renal impairment.
Hydromorphone
Oral
Potent strong opioid, metabolised in the liver. Wide inter-individual patient
variability.
Tapentadol
Oral
New opioid with additional activity on the noradrenergic systems; may have a role in
neuropathic pain; some evidence of improved side effect profile and drop-out rates
from RCTs compared to other strong opioids.
Oxycodone/
Naloxone
Oral
Combined preparation where naloxone binds preferentially to MORs in the GI
tract, with potential reduction in opioid-related adverse GI effects. Maximum
recommended dose 80 mg oxycodone/40 mg naloxone.
Methadone
Oral
Very unpredictable pharmacokinetics with considerable inter-individual variation.
NOT recommended for use without specialist advice.
Up-to-date SMC advice on these drugs is available from their website, www.scottishmedicines.org.uk
56 |
Annex 4
Box 2: Suggested dose conversion ratios
(converting from)
Current opioid
Example
120 mg oral morphine in 24 hours
(converting to)
Divide 24 hour dose* of current opioid (column 1) by
New opioid and/or new route relevant figure below to calculate initial 24 hour dose
of administration
of new opioid and/or new route (column 2)
subcutaneous diamorphine
Divide by 3
(120 mg / 3 = 40 mg subcutaneous diamorphine in 24
hours)
oral to oral route conversions
oral codeine
oral morphine
Divide by 10
oral tramadol
oral morphine
Divide by 5
oral morphine
oral oxycodone
Divide by 2
oral morphine
oral hydromorphone
Divide by 7.5
oral to transdermal route conversions
oral morphine
transdermal fentanyl
Refer to manufacturer’s information**
oral morphine
transdermal buprenorphine
Seek specialist palliative care advice
oral to subcutaneous route conversions
oral morphine
subcutaneous morphine
Divide by 2
oral morphine
subcutaneous diamorphine
Divide by 3
oral oxycodone
subcutaneous morphine
No change
oral oxycodone
subcutaneous oxycodone
Divide by 2
oral oxycodone
subcutaneous diamorphine
Divide by 1.5
oral hydromorphone
subcutaneous
hydromorphone
Seek specialist palliative care advice
other route conversions rarely used in palliative medicine
subcutaneous or intramuscular
morphine
intravenous morphine
No change
intravenous morphine
oral morphine
Multiply by 2
oral morphine
intramuscular morphine
Divide by 2
Conversion ratios between strong opioids: Strong evidence for converting between opioids is lacking, with the majority of
studies being single dose, small sample size pharmacokinetic studies, usually in healthy volunteers (see section 12.2). A number
of dose conversion charts are available and can be useful, but there is significant inter-individual variability and they should be
used with caution, particularly in the elderly; if there are significant other co-morbidities (eg hepatic or renal impairment); or
with polypharmacy.
* The same units must be used for both opioids or routes, eg mg morphine to mg oxycodone
** The conversion ratios of oral morphine:transdermal fentanyl specified by the manufacturer(s) vary from
around100:1 to 150:1
| 57
Management of chronic pain
Annex 5
Scottish service model for chronic pain
Chronic Pain Scotland
Service Model
Most people get back to normal after pain that might come on after an injury or
operation or for no apparent reason. Sometimes the pain carries on for longer than
12 weeks despite medication or treatment – this is called chronic or persistent pain.
1
Level 1 - Advice and information
about pain and what to do about
it. Anyone can access these
services from home or
community settings
2
Level 2 - When help from a GP or
therapist is needed
3
Level 3 - For those needing more
specialist help from a chronic
pain management service
Level 4 - Highly specialised help
4
Information and guidance supporting all levels
Visit www.chronicpainscotland.org
58 |
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